Before I dive into this week’s bits and pieces of news from Yankee Universe this Veteran’s Day, the Bronx was abuzz with activity again, though not specifically baseball-related. The field is still recovering from its transformation into a football field for the Army-UConn game this past Saturday (Army beat UConn 35-21), but the Grand Concourse was lined with tables laden with items that would be stuffed into 5000 Welcome Bags by over 150 volunteers. Volunteers included Joe Girardi and his wife Kim; broadcasters David Cone, Michael Kay, John Sterling, and Suzyn Waldman. The bags filled with Yankees souvenirs and daily necessities and luxuries like snacks, puzzle books, and toothpaste will then be distributed by the USO to troops serving in Afghanistan. Delta, FedEx, and MetLife also sponsored the event.
Now the news bits:
The infield may still be a bit of giant question mark with Rodriguez’s return, a hole at starting shortstop, and the possible re-signing of Headley. But the outfield seems to be now set. Gardner, Ellsbury, and Beltran are all signed to multi-year deals and thus in pinstripes. But now the addition (and return) of Chris Young, the outfield looks pretty solid now. Young’s disappointing 2014 season with the Mets certainly improved with a cross-town change of venue. This means that should Ichiro be looking to return to the Yankees himself, unfortunately there is no more room; he is now a free agent, and though his time with New York has done nothing but endear him to Yankee fans these past few years, it seems unlikely he will be suiting up in pinstripes in 2015 should he decide to play.
Last week, the qualifying offers went out, one specifically to David Robertson. Yesterday, Robertson sent word that he was denying the offer in hopes of seeking a multi-year deal. The offer is always a gamble for both parties, but a relatively young pitcher like Robertson desiring a more permanent contract, even at a possible pay-cut really seems like the most logical option. Do I think he won’t be pitching for the Yankees next year? On the contrary, I think this puts both Robertson and the Yankees in a much better position to consider the future of their assumed closer and lock him in for years to come. Of course, come Spring Training, I could be very, very wrong, but I would be really surprised if he chooses to go somewhere else, despite his high-standing in the free agent market after refusing the qualifying offer.
We are deep in postseason awards now, though the Yankees seem to be coming up short lately. Yesterday was the closest a Yankee came to an award. Dellin Betances came in 3rd for the AL Rookie of the Year, as presented by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The young reliever had a truly outstanding rookie season, his fastball pitches regularly hitting upper-90’s (often over 100mph), a 1.40 ERA in his 70 appearances, led all AL relievers in innings pitched (90), and set the record for most strikeouts by a rookie reliever since 1986 with 135. Well, he had my vote (metaphorically, that is, if I could actually vote).
And in a surprise twist, Girardi came in 6th in the AL Manager of the Year. I suppose it’s because he was able to keep the Yankees alive right up until the last week of the season despite all the injuries and near-dissolution of the starting rotation. It is rather an impressive feat if you think about it, and he deserved to be recognized.
Brett Gardner had minor surgery in October and is currently on the quick road to recovery to be ready for Spring. The injury to his right rectus abdominis muscle affected Gardner periodically in July and September this past season, which led Gardner to opt for core corrective surgery. Following his completion of physical therapy, Gardner will begin his usual off-season routine of preparing for Spring. In other words, the problem is solved, holidays are coming, and he’ll ready for Spring. No biggie.
GM Brian Cashman and other special Yankees personnel are currently in Arizona at GM meetings. After last season’s big splash with the signings of Tanaka, McCann, Ellsbury, and Beltran, many are waiting to see what “big splashes” come from Cashman this off-season. Like I said before, there are some holes in the infield and potentially on the pitching staff, so perhaps we will see one or two (my best guess would be whoever they sign for shortstop). I doubt the Yankees are in the place where 4 big splashes are necessary.
And finally, Alfonso Soriano is officially hanging up his cleats. Soriano spent 16 years in the major leagues, beginning with the Yankees (1999-2003), before spending time with Texas (2004-5), Washington (2006), and the Cubs (2007-13), and then getting traded back to the Yankees in mid-2013. Soriano was released in mid-2014, much to the chagrin of many New York fans, so perhaps it will ease a little of the loss as Soriano retires a Yankee. Best of luck to him and his family as he pursues the many opportunities that comes to a recently retired ball player.
And that’s the basic gist of things around Yankee Universe…
I saw various tweets today to honor our veterans this Veteran’s Day. Some were personal and sentimental, some were drench in history, some held the placid standard message. But a few stood out to me as they reminded Twitter-verse that Veteran’s Day is but one day on the calendar that we should honor our military personnel past and present. The reason the Yankees still “Honor America” with a recognition of veterans present and sing “God Bless America” at every home game during the 7th inning stretch is because one day is never enough to honor our men and women in the armed forces. We should recognize their sacrifice and service at every opportunity. So yes, we honor them today, but let us always honor them — be it a thank you to the guy in uniform on the plane next to you, or stuffing a USO Welcome Bag, or a letter to a soldier through a penpal-like program, or simply sitting with grandparents or relatives to hear their stories.
A very special “thank you” to my own family and friends who have served and their families who support and love them. You are so appreciated, more than you could ever know.