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!

Hall of Fame near miss & other random off-season moments

After several months of speculation and journalists openly sharing their votes, the Baseball Writers Association of America released the much-anticipated results of the annual Hall of Fame election. In December, the Veterans Committee selected 4-time World Series pitcher Jack Norris (1984 Tigers, 1991 Twins, 1992-93 Blue Jays) and his 1984 Tigers’ teammate, 6-time All-Star shortstop and 1984 World Series MVP, Alan Trammel. Joining them, the BBWAA announced newest inductees Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Trevor Hoffman, and Vladimir Guerrero, all well-deserved honorees.

Elected with 97.2% of the vote, Jones spent his entire 19 year career with the Braves at 3rd base and became a fixture in the Atlanta area. He was part of the 1995, 1996, and 1999 World Series teams, winning a ring with the Hall of Fame worthy 1995 team against the Indians. (Jones joins other 1995 Braves teammates Tom Glavine and Greg Maddox (HOF class of 2014) and John Smoltz (class of 2015) at Cooperstown.) Jones also earned the NL MVP Award in 1999 and was an 8-time All-Star.

{Worth reminding my primary audience here: the Braves team in 1996 and 1999 faced and lost to the last dynasty of the Yankees. It was 6 games in the 1996 series, before they were swept in the 1999 series by the unstoppable Yankees that year.}

On the other side of that World Series was a noted 1st baseman and fellow 2018 inductee Jim Thome (89.8% of the votes). Thome spent his 22 year career primarily with the Indians (1991-2002, 2011), helping them reach the 1995 and 1997 World Series but failed to get a ring (losing to the Braves and Marlins, respectively). Over the course of his career, he was a 5-time All-Star and led the National League with 47 home runs in his 2003 season with the Phillies. Thome also won the 2002 Roberto Clemente Award for his outstanding contributions both on the field and off.

Reliever Hoffman (79.9%) spent the bulk of his 18 year with the Padres (1993-2008), including the year they met the Yankees in the World Series in 1998. The Yankees swept them in 4 games (again, part of that unstoppable dynasty era). But Hoffman still made quite the impact in his career as a 7-time All-Star and leading the NL in saves both in 1998 (with 53) and in 2006 (with 46).

Guerrero (92.9%) spent his 16 year career in the outfield, the bulk of which first with the Expos (1996-2003) and then with the Angels (2004-2009). He also got a shot at the World Series with the 2010 Rangers, but they fell to the Giants that year. Guerrero was a 9-time All-Star and 2004 AL MVP. He also polishes his well-earned 8 Silver Slugger Awards in his trophy case as part of his career accomplishments.

Falling just short of the 75% of the votes needed included Yankee pitcher Mike Mussina, getting 63.5% . Any player receiving less than 5% of the votes are automatically dropped from the ballot the following year (including former Yankees Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui). However, those above 5% and less than 75% move on to hope for another year including Mussina, Roger Clemens (57.3%), Gary Sheffield (11.1%), and Andruw Jones (7.3%). Mussina keeps missing the mark, while Clemens battles the rumors of his past PED use, similar to Giants legend Barry Bonds (who fell short at 56.4%).

It is also worth noting that there were 422 submitted ballots, including 1 left intentionally blank (because where would the fun be in someone getting elected with 100% of the votes). Of those, only 12 ballots didn’t elect Jones, which is why he only got 97% of the vote. Notably, there was also one voter that only voted for Indians alumni (Thome and Omar Vizquel). And if you’re feeling a weird flashback to high school elections for prom court or student council, you’re 100% on track. Some people use their vote to make a point (the blank ballot or all Indians ballot), some to play favorites (a few intentionally anti-Yankee alumni), and some thought through the process of such an honor and chose players that rightfully deserve legacy status. I have mixed feelings every year — I agree every time with who will be feted in July, but I am always irked by who “falls short” due to those who vote in the first two categories.

No, I don’t have a vote. But I do have an opinion.

In lighter news, and back to focusing on Yankees, the off-season has been pretty good for the boys. They’ve been working out, having fun on the practice fields, and enjoying fan art. Meanwhile, the biggest end of season trend last year was Gary the “Thumbs Down” Guy, a Mets fan who flashed the “thumbs down” during a Todd Frazier home run at the special game at CitiField in September. It became a huge meme and thing for the Yankees to do during something amazing and gave New Yorker Gary Dunaier his 15 minutes of fame (or rather 4 months and counting). Frazier and Dunaier finally met earlier this week at an event on Staten Island.

Legend-in-the-making and video game cover guy Aaron Judge got to practice his swing (and bat flip) in a motion-capture suit. He will premier on the cover of MLB The Show 2018 and show off his home run swing for Play Station come March 27 (or March 23 for pre-orders). I’m sure video game players are eagerly awaiting the chance to be the 2017 Rookie of the Year, but I’m just looking forward to the real live player in Spring Training next month.

In Yankees’ Minor League news: The Yankees AA team, the Trenton Thunder, will honor its 25th anniversary this year by playing every Friday game as the “Trenton Pork Rolls“, starting May 18. I swear this is not a “fake” story. Apparently, it’s a local thing, the pork roll, and I’m sure it’s delicious (albeit not very Kosher). And sadly, that is not the weirdest name (and this doesn’t include the Jumbo Shrimp and the Baby Cakes) of a minor league team in the system. And fortunately, it’s only on Fridays. (But what a thing to have on your resume!)

Meanwhile, the Advanced-A Yankees affiliate (and current Steinbrenner Field residents), the Tampa Yankees, made the announcement last month that they would begin the 2018 season with their own name change — the Tampa Tarpons. The Tarpons were a team for about 3 decades in the middle of last century, though baseball has been played in Tampa for over 100 years, including extensively hosting Spring Training. Locally, the tarpon is a large fish, popular with sports fisherman and found off the Gulf Coast, and a neighboring local city is Tarpon Springs. So the Tampa Tarpons found something steeped in local tradition and lore.

The 2018 season is rapidly approaching. 20 days until pitchers and catchers report (Feb. 13). 30 days until the first Spring Training game (Feb. 23 against the Tigers). 65 days until the first game of the season (March 29 in Toronto). And 69 days until the home opener (April 2 against the Rays).

But who’s counting?

Go Yankees!

Off Season Update: Holiday Wrap-up

Well, the Astros are the reigning World Champions, much to the city of Houston’s glee. The parade through the streets of Houston, which had been nearly devastated just a few months earlier was a big encouragement to those who are still trying to rebuild their homes and lives after Hurricane Harvey slammed into the Texas coast in late August.

Winter Meetings begin on Monday, and between the Astros winning Game 7 over the Dodgers and the Winter Meetings on Monday, it’s not exactly been a quiet off-season. Especially for the Yankees.

Awards Season: Almost immediately following the World Series, MLB Universe wraps up its season by handing out all sorts of awards. Mostly, it was Aaron Judge that was up for many of the awards like MVP and Rookie of the Year, but it was a tough year for nearly every category as there was some really outstanding players and plays made this season. You can catch up on all the awards (with extensive coverage and video clips) here. But I’m just going to do a brief Yankee Universe summary.

As expected, the MVPs and Hank Aaron Awards of both the AL and NL went to the Astros’ Jose Altuve and Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton, though Judge’s name was tossed about quite a bit for the AL versions of both awards. Judge did snag Rookie of the Year, voted so unanimously, the first Yankee to do so since Jeter in 1996. (Side note: also in the mix for ROTY — breakout starter Jordan Montgomery.) Judge was also awarded the Silver Slugger for right field, something he shared this year with teammate Gary Sanchez, who won it for his catching position. And Judge was also voted on by his fellow players for the Players’ Choice Award of Outstanding AL Rookie.

Now, Esurance sponsors its own array of awards for the season and quite a few Yankees graced the finalists lists. Best Major Leaguer was awarded to Altuve over 9 other finalists including MLB legends like Stanton and Trout as well as (of course) Judge. Severino was nominated for Best Pitcher, but lost to the Indians’ Corey Kluber (who had an outstanding postseason in his own right). Of the 6 finalists for Best Rookie, who else but Aaron Judge became the natural choice. The Astros’ manager AJ Hinch edged out 9 other finalists for Best Manager, including Joe Girardi, and Brian Cashman got the same treatment in the Best Executive category as the Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow snagged that one. Other awards include Best Postseason Moment, Best TV/Radio Call, Best Play, Personality of the Year, and Best Fan Catch, none of which unfortunately include any Yankees

Hello, old friend: At the end of October, before the World Series was even complete, the Yankees announced they were parting ways with their long-term manager Joe Girardi, and began the search for their new skipper. With former bench coach Rob Thomson singing on to be the Phillies’ new bench coach and 3rd base coach Joe Espada the Astros’ bench coach, the Yankees ended up narrowing the manager candidates down and included two former Yankee players — Carlos Beltran and Aaron Boone. Just a few days ago, the Yankees announced that they were going with Aaron Boone, known to most Yankee fans as the hero of the 2003 World Series and more recently as a ESPN broadcaster. Boone, who will wear #17, will be thrust back into Yankee Universe in a crucial role, one that could either expose his inexperience as a manager or one that could see him flourish thanks to his extensive baseball knowledge, legacy, and intelligence. Only time will tell.

Big splash denied, big splash made: All 30 MLB clubs were hoping to sign an international sensation, 23-year-old Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani, who is known both as a stellar pitcher and as a big power-hitter. The international market has some complex rules about signings, and many assumed that Ohtani would sign with a big name NL team so that he could use both of his famed tools. Almost immediately, most East Coast teams were eliminated, including big market teams like the Yankees and Red Sox. With most of the chatter leaning towards the Mariners (despite being an AL team), the big surprise was when the Angels (also an AL team) announced their newest acquisition just a few days ago.

But without that possibility, the Yankees started searching for their big splash. Within about 24 hours of word leaking that the Marlins were shopping their superstar Giancarlo Stanton, it was confirmed just today. Former HR Derby champion Stanton would join current HR Derby champion Judge in the Yankees outfield and in Yankee pinstripes for the 2018 season. Details are forthcoming, but it looks like the Yankees will send prospect pitcher Jorge Guzman (the #9 Yankee prospect), prospect shortstop Jose Devers, and Starlin Castro to the Marlins in exchange for Stanton and about $30 million. Castro has 2 years and about $23.7 million left on his current contract.

Okay, what that means and leaves wide open for the Yankees to answer questions this off-season. First, removing Castro from 2nd leaves a wide open space for perhaps Ronald Torreyes to play more frequently, especially as he was clearly one of the more reliable and consistent defenders and hitters (basically the ideal bench/utility player) for the last 2 seasons. However, there are several prospects that could earn the everyday position in Spring Training including the much talked about Gleyber Torres.

The Yankees now have 6 potential outfielders — Gardner, Ellsbury, Judge, Stanton, Hicks, and C. Frazier. Frazier will likely spend time in AAA once again, which leaves either Gardner or Ellsbury (mostly due to age, unfortunately) as the prime potential for a trade. However, Ellsbury has a no-trade clause in his contract, one that he could easily waive if asked or volunteer to be traded on his own if he so desires. A lot of that usually depends on who’s asking. That prevents players from being traded into a clubhouse or organization they don’t like. If I was a player, there are definitely certain clubs I would avoid like the plague, or take a pay cut to play with a better team.

Also, the Yankees are dealing with 8 arbitration-eligible players and 10 with less than 3 years on their contracts, most notably Headley, Robertson, and Gardner, who are all on their final year of their deals. Arbitration-eligible means that the Yankees will extend an offer (a proposed salary) to keep them on their roster, and the player either accepts it or counter offers and it goes to arbitration for the mediator to pick the correct number. Basically, it’s a negotiation tool, and this off-season, the Yankees will have to negotiate with Betances, Gray, Gregorius, Hicks, Kahnle, Romine, Shreve, and Warren. Unless they trade them, of course.

Again, the Winter Meetings start on Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Florida (a.k.a. Disney World’s Swan & Dolphin Resorts, for anyone not familiar with Central Florida geography). Winter Meetings are when representatives from all the MLB clubs and their minor league teams, as well as MLB executives, meet up for about four days and do business face-to-face. So, there’s going to be trades, discussions, executive meetings to discuss baseball operations and potential alterations to rule of play. Often scouts, owners, general managers, international visitors, job-seekers, and trade show exhibitors will also be milling around the meetings. In other words, we can expect more news to come out of this next week’s meetings. And I was going to wait until after that to post, just in case the Yankees make another big splash, which they could as they still need to shore up the starting rotation. But today’s news was too big to pass up.

But barring a big splash, I hope everyone has a good holiday season as we close out this 2017 and hope for a really wonderful 2018. I mean, it really looks like 2018 could be the year we finally celebrate #28.

Go Yankees!

World Series 7: HOU vs. LAD — #HoustonStrong

Well, one drought is over. The Astros organization have finally won a World Series. The Houston team was created in 1962 as the Houston Colt .45s, being renamed for the 1965 season for the local space program that would help send men to the moon. They were in the NL for most of their history, switching to the AL in 2013 to balance out the league that now included more interleague games. The last time the Astros were in the World Series was in 2005 when they lost to the Chicago White Sox. But now, they’re the World Champions.

Neither starter in tonight’s Game 7 was really that good. And when you’re dealing with a Game 7, you’ve got everyone available. No “he needs more than 3 days rest”. No “he’s the backup player”. You play who you’ve got to play because it’s really an all-or-nothing. The Astros really got lucky tonight because they certainly allowed enough base runners without allowing any runs. Including 4 base runners thanks to their starter McCullers hitting 4 Dodgers’ batters.

And before you jump there, no, the Dodgers are a classy organization and didn’t serve up the “traditional revenge” and hit 4 of their batters. This follows the pattern they also showed when an Astros player made a racial slur and gesture towards Game 3 and tonight’s Dodgers’ starter Darvish. Darvish and the Dodgers didn’t respond in any way other than showed their class and desire to move beyond what they deemed a disappointing and ignorant move. Gurriel (the Astros player) received a 5-game suspension to be served at the beginning of the 2018 season without pay, a move that received mixed reception.

Anyway, the Dodgers did get quite a few runners on base, but they never did anything to convert those into runs for most of the game. The Astros went through 4 pitchers in the first 5 innings before they called in another starter Morton to close out the final half of the game for 4 innings. Morton held strong and still managed to give up the Dodgers only run in the 6th. A lead-off single and walk got runners on base once again before a 1-out pinch-hit single scored the lead run to get them on the board. But that was all Morton allowed for the Dodgers’ offense.

The biggest problem for the Dodgers tonight was their starter Darvish. Darvish just struggled his way through his 2 innings, and that would be the problem they could just not overcome. A lead-off double, by Astros’ player Springer, scored on a throwing error. After a stolen base, a ground out scored another run to give the Astros an early 2-0 lead. And in the 2nd, former Yankee catcher McCann led-off for the Astros with a walk, ended up at 3rd (sort of limping actually) on a double, and then somehow scored and slid home on a ground out. Then Springer smacked a big 2-out, 2-run home run to push the Astros even further ahead.

That was it for Darvish right there in the 2nd inning. And his reliever Morrow came on and threw 3 pitches to get out of the inning with a strikeout. So it was back to the bullpen to rely on their amazing pitching staff, starting with Kershaw, who was going on just 3 days rest from his stellar start back in Game 5. Kershaw gave up 2 hits and 2 walks in his 4 innings, but like the rest of the Dodgers’ bullpen tonight, never allowed another run to score. Closer Jansen had his own scoreless inning in the 7th, passing the ball to another starter Wood who closed out the game through 2 scoreless innings.

Final score: 5-1 Astros, Astros win series 4-3

So the Astros win the 113th World Series, and George Springer was honored with the Series’ MVP award, dubbed for the first year as the Willie Mays Award. In addition to the trophy and honor, he was presented with a special edition Chevy Silverado pick-up truck. Springer was named the MVP because of the power-hitting show he displayed this last week. He ties Reggie Jackson (with the 1977 Yankees) and Chase Utley (with the 2009 Phillies, now with the Dodgers, by the way) as the only 3 players to hit 4 home runs in the World Series, though Springer is the only one to hit them in 4 consecutive games. A well-deserved honor.

In another victory moment on the field, Astros shortstop Carlos Correa got down on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend Daniella. She said “yes”. Correa later said there was two options for him — win and propose, or lose and cry. (And probably propose later this off-season. I mean, Christmas and New Year’s is coming up after all…) Either way, congratulations to Carlos & Daniella!

And in former Yankee news, two former Yankees and veteran ball players were part of the Astros championship team and thus get their first World Series rings — Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran.

I couldn’t agree more. Congratulations to them on their well-deserved rings! And best of luck in whatever you decide is your next chapter, Beltran!

Now, folks, we head into the off-season with lots of question marks in Yankee Universe about the manager, coaching staff, certain players’ contracts and opt-out clauses, and what kind of mix of veterans and young players will compose the 2018 team. So, don’t spend your off-season like Rogers Hornsby and just look out the window waiting for Spring. There’s another new season, another championship to be won, another great team to cheer on and pray we get our Game 7 next year. Spring seems long because winter is dark and dreary, but it will come faster than you think. And it’s earlier than you think this year, with all the Spring Training games starting in February, something they have to do because the season is starting at the end of March this year.

Maybe they got tired of November baseball? I don’t know. I think true baseball fans like baseball in all seasons… oh, and hey, some of our guys are playing in the Arizona Fall League right now and doing really well, even making the Fall All-Stars roster!

Go Yankees!

World Series 6: HOU vs. LAD — Onto Game 7 & November baseball

Move over, Derek Jeter, there’s going to be another “Mr. November” in town because the Dodgers outperformed the Astros tonight to force a Game 7. The first Game 7 ever in Dodger Stadium.

Well, the Dodgers knew this was the game to win if they wanted the title, especially as they were going up against one of the best pitchers on the Astros’ rotation Verlander. Yankee Universe certainly know how dangerous of a pitcher Verlander has been this postseason, so the Dodgers were going to have to pull out all the stops if they wanted to stop the Astros from grabbing the title tonight.

But Verlander did have a pretty good outing, throwing a strong 6 innings, giving up just 3 hits and getting 9 strikeouts. But he also gave up a couple of runs in his final inning. He gave up a lead-off single and hit the next batter. A double scored the lead runner, and a sacrifice fly scored the other runner to put the Dodgers on top.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers sent in Hill to start the game, and he too had a pretty decent outing. He threw just 58 pitches into the 5th inning, gave up 4 hits, a walk, and a run, and struck out 5 Astros’ batters. That lone allowed run was a 2-out solo shot in the 3rd to get the Astros on the board early. They, however, could not defend that lone run. Mainly because they do not have the bullpen the Dodgers clearly do. Once the Dodgers opened their bullpen to close out the 5th and the rest of the game, they were in command and dominant. The game was clearly theirs for the taking, mostly due to the 6-out save from their closer, who sailed through the final 2 innings in just 19 pitches.

But like I said, the Astros’ bullpen had a much harder time keeping control of the Dodgers’ offense. But they did their best. In the 7th, the only other allowed hit was a 1-out solo home run. But the Dodgers got a lot of opportunities they just didn’t capitalize on. Fortunately, the really didn’t need it.

Final score: 3-1 Dodgers, series split 3-3

Game 7 of the World Series doesn’t come around that often, so having it 2 years in a row (and thus 2 years of November baseball) is something pretty special. It will be the 39th time in 113 years of World Series history that teams will play a Game 7, and only the 3rd time it will be played in November. The first Game 7 was played all the way back in 1909. Three times it has gone into extra innings (1991, 1997, 2016). And the Yankees have featured prominently in many Game 7’s over the years — the losses in 1955, 1957, 1960, 1964, and 2001; the victories in 1947, 1952, 1956, 1958, and 1962.

Of course, the most famous Game 7 in recent history has to be the 1986 where the Mets powered through an extra inning Game 6 to force a Game 7 (that was actually postponed a day due to rain). The Mets came so close to losing the Red Sox at every turn and somehow managed to power through the final game to reclaim the championship (last won in 1969 by the “Amazin’ Mets”) and help continue the “Red Sox Curse” for another year.

But like most final games of any series, literally anything can happen. It’s truly anyone’s game to win or lose. And it’s going to be a great on in LA tomorrow night.

Go Yankees!

World Series 5: LAD vs. HOU — Well, that was a rather messy was to play a game

Every day, I have to come up with a title for each blog post to kind of summarize the game that just happened. And when I was reviewing all my notes for this game and thinking back to what I witnessed on my television screen, I could not help but utter the words that became my title today. And there you go… an insight into the mind of a baseball blogger.

Anyway, it wasn’t what you’d call a “well-fought” game. Despite sending in their ace pitchers again, neither team really had an ace pitching staff show up to play this game. Instead, they both seemed to serve up run-scoring ball to the other team to put into play and just mess up the defense and scoreboard along the way. The Dodgers’ starter Kershaw only threw into the 5th inning and gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and 6 runs, striking out 2 Astros’ batter. While the Astros’ starter Keuchel only made it into the 4th inning, giving up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 4 runs (3 earned), and striking out 4 batters. And then neither bullpen was all that great overall — both teams ultimately gave up 14 total hits each, a total of 25 runs (by both teams), and 11 walks. In other words, we could just consider this a bad example of pitching in the World Series.

The Dodgers started the run-scoring fun in the 1st inning by loading up the bases with a lead-off single and 2 1-out walks before a 2-out single scored 2 runs. A double stolen base and a throwing error allowed another run to score, despite a Houston challenge on the call that was ultimately upheld. They came back in the 4th to add one more in their corner. A 1-out double scored on a 2-out single. After yet another single, that’s when they pulled Keuchel from the game.

But as Kershaw was kind of going strong for the first third of the game and then he got himself into trouble with the Dodgers safely in the lead. But as we know, in the World Series, no lead is safe. In the bottom of the 4th, the Astros came surging back. With 1 out and a walk and single on base, a double scored 1 runner (despite a Dodgers’ challenge that upheld the original call) before a nicely placed strike became a 3-run home run to tie up the game right there.

And onto the 5th inning, the Dodgers worked consecutive walks to lead-off the inning and a 1-out 3-run home run pushed the visitors back in the lead. But the Astros answered back in the bottom of the inning. With 2 outs, Kershaw walked the next 2 batters and saw the end of his own night. The reliever promptly gave up a 3-run home run to the next batter to tie up the game again.

And into the 7th inning. The Dodgers led-off with a double that ended up being tagged out on a fielder’s choice grounder. But that runner who made it to 1st on the grounder ended up scoring on a long RBI triple. And the Astros responded again with more power in their half-inning with a lead-off solo home run to tie it up again. A single then scored on an RBI double, and a 2-run home run gave the Astros a nice lead for the first time the whole game.

The Dodgers made a bit of an effort to chip away that lead in the 8th. With 1 out, the Dodgers hit a double and then another batter reached on a hit-by-pitch. With yet another new reliever on the mound, a double scored 1 of those runners. But the Astros’ got a 1-out solo shot in the 8th to earn that run back in their favor. So the Astros just needed 3 outs to seal their win.

But the Dodgers changed the game again in the 9th inning. With a lead-off walk and an out, a 2-run home run chipped away at the Astros’ lead. A double moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on an RBI single to just tie up the game once again. And just suck the air out of Minute Maid Stadium.

So without a comeback from the Astros in the 9th, the game ended up going into the 10th inning. The Dodgers failed to get on the board in their half, and needed just 3 outs to come back in the next inning and try again. 3 outs… but it wasn’t that kind of game. So, there was 2 outs and an Astros’ batter was hit by a pitch and then next batter worked a walk. The Astros decided to pinch-run for the lead runner, who is known for being a bit slow in the running department. On a single, that pinch-runner at 2nd sped around 3rd and slid in for the walk-off run to win the game.

Final score: 13-12 Astros, in 10 innings, Astros lead series 3-2

The series now heads back to Los Angeles on Tuesday for Game 6. The Astros need just one more win to claim their title. But the Dodgers have every bit of chance to win Tuesday and go on to battle back for Game 7 on Wednesday night for their own title this year.

In Yankee Universe news: with Girardi now out, the rest of the coaching staff is technically up with their contracts. In other words, if other teams are interested in making a bid for the coaching staff, they can. A few have already been interviewed by other teams, and a few are being considered for Girardi’s former job. But they have a few months to consider all their options, including the very real possibility of a completely new coaching staff from manager on down.

Yankees’ reliever David Robertson got word that his close friend, former White Sox teammate, and fellow reliever Daniel Webb was killed in an ATV accident on October 14. Webb had been out this season due to Tommy John surgery and was able to celebrate the birth of his newborn child recently. He was enjoying time with his wife Melissa and friends in middle Tennessee when his ATV hit an object in the woods and overturned, injuring Melissa and killing Daniel. Robertson is using his non-profit relief foundation High Socks for Hope to help raise funds for Melissa and their newborn baby. 100% of all donations are tax-deductible and 100% will go directly to Melissa for all the medical, funeral, and living expenses that have since arisen as a result of the tragedy.

Our hearts and prayers go out to Melissa, their daughter, and all their family and friends (including David and Eric Robertson) with their loss.

Go Yankees!