Tag: Hal Steinbrenner Page 1 of 2

A Top Prospect Didn’t Stop the Mets from Signing Carlos Correa

The Yankees have had a successful offseason thus far. Keeping Aaron Judge was mandatory, but adding Carlos Rodón was not something I anticipated heading into this winter. Frankly, I was prepared for a Judge-and-done hot stove season. Kinda like what happened with Gerrit Cole a few years ago. So in that sense, I’m happy to see my expectations exceeded. 

Still, I look across town and am feeling a bit of jealousy. Steve Cohen just signed Carlos Correa. The Mets already had a star shortstop in Francisco Lindor, so Correa will play third. This, in spite of the Mets’ solid incumbent options at third base (Eduardo Escobar, Brett Baty, Luis Guillorme). It’s not a perfect analogy because the Yankees’ didn’t have a third baseman at the time (Aaron Boone got hurt playing pickup basketball), but it is reminiscent of A-Rod moving to the hot corner with Derek Jeter already in tow.

Thoughts as the Yankees continue to embarrass themselves

Sums it up, no?

How many of you went to sleep with the Yankees up 7-4 and the bullpen seemingly locking things down? Or during the second rain delay, fully expecting the game to be called at five innings? I envy you all. Much better than staying up past 1 o’clock in the morning to watch that abominable loss.

Hal Steinbrenner is going to speak to the media this morning, and as I noted yesterday, don’t expect him to say anything that will satisfy the masses. He’ll probably state his frustration, reiterate his belief in the current group, but note that this is unacceptable. A bunch of words that won’t do much of anything. Bleh.

So, I have thoughts, rambling ones at that. I don’t know if they are coherent as I’m operating on five-ish hours of sleep, but let’s get to’em.

Highlights From The Gerrit Cole Press Conference

This is Cole’s first win.

The big day is here. After an eleven year pursuit, the New York Yankees will unveil their new ace Gerrit Cole today. He was the main target of the offseason plan and they gave him 324 million reasons to put on the pinstripes. This is clearly a significant day in recent Yankees history. We will have all the highlights along with some brief thoughts of the presser.

  • Sitting on the dais for the press conference are Hal Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman, Aaron Boone, Lonn Trost, Randy Levine, Michael Fishman, Matt Blake and Scott Boras. The team brought out the heavy hitters of the Yankee brain trust. This signing is a big deal and the team is not shying away from it.
  • Brian Cashman begins his statement with the story of Cole making the decision to turn down the Yankees draft offer to attend UCLA. Cashman goes on to detail the journey the team went through to acquire Cole through trade and free agency. Cashman acknowledges the hard work Cole has put in to be one of the elite free agents in the game. He believes that process created this moment as the right time for both the player and the team. Cashman also notes there is no guarantee for future success with this partnership.
  • Aaron Boone says this is a big deal for the franchise. He got the word three or four weeks ago that the Yankees were going to pursue Gerrit Cole. Boone describes meeting with Gerrit Cole as a privilege. The process of getting to know a player and person like Cole is a privilege in his mind that he did not take for granted. Boone understands how great of a player Cole is, but he was blown away by Gerrit Cole the person is. Aaron stresses the importance of culture to him and he believes Cole will be a tremendous addition to the locker room. Boone was especially impressed with Cole’s ability to communicate the processes, the nuances and approach of his craft. The Yankees manager is looking forward to experiencing the ups and downs of their journey that will ultimately be a fruitful one.
  • Gerrit Cole is officially number 45. I would love to know what he offered Luke Voit to get that number if anything at all.
  • Cole looks amazing in pinstripes if I say so myself. I say that with absolutely no bias at all.
  • Gerrit Cole brings up Hal, Boras and his wife Amy to present the original sign from when he was eleven years old and attended Game 6 of the 2001 World Series. This is the same sign from the now famous picture of Cole hanging over the outfield wall. Cole then says “I’ve always been here.” That was a very dope moment.
  • Cole gives thanks to his teammates, coaches, Boras and former teammates. He also took time to shout out Marvin Miller entering the Hall of Fame and Curt Flood pioneering free agency for the current group of players. It was a really impressive gesture to recognize those who came before him to pave the way for this historical contract. Gerrit Cole is pretty involved in the Player’s Association and this is an example of that involvement. That moment reveals a lot about Cole the person that both Boone and Cashman went out of their way to acknowledge.
  • Cole says he joined the Yankees because it was his dream. He believes it is the best organization in the league. It was his second chance to join them and he took it. He feels a lot of confidence in the organization and Cashman’s vision. It also helped that the Yankees were his favorite team.
  • Cole became a Yankee fan through his father who went to school for a few years in New York. He said it was hard not to fall in love with the Yankees during their dynasty years. The Yankees were on tv a lot right after school ended since he lived on the west coast and he watched a lot of the games.
  • It was extremely tough to turn down the Yankees after he was drafted. Cole and his family wanted to honor their commitment to UCLA and even more importantly, to education. His father is a PHd and education is paramount in their family.
  • “Pressure is a privilege.” The pressure of pitching in the playoffs is the reward for playing well in the regular season. He felt like he could see a title in his sights with Houston, but they weren’t able to accomplish that goal. Cole doesn’t think there is a better place to finish that championship journey in New York.
  • He explains the 30 pound contraption! It is a gold plated home plate that opens up and reveals an iPad. It gives a history of the New York Yankees, where to live in the city and outside of the city and other pertinent information that would inform him and his family about the organization and the city. Cole also mentioned that after he signed the Yankees gave him a Yankee hat and he didn’t take it off for about three days.
  • Cole makes it very clear that he wasn’t thinking of free agency when he took the mound in Game 3 of the ALCS. He understood the magnitude of the moment and the challenge in front of him so signing with the Yankees was the last thing on his mind.

Here are some immediate feelings from the presser:

1. If you could win a championship for a press conference, Gerrit Cole just won his first ring. He was smart, engaging, funny, reflective, selfless and confident. You could immediately see all of the qualities that would make him attractive to any franchise beyond his golden arm. He said all the right things that Yankees fans wanted to hear today.

2. The most important quote from the presser is “pressure is a privilege.” I wouldn’t be surprised if this became a t-shirt in the near future. The phrase perfectly captures Cole’s competitive character. He is embracing the challenge and journey of winning a championship in the largest market in the world. There wasn’t any doubt that Cole wanted to be a Yankee. He mentioned his decision to join the Yankees came down to his heart. There is nothing sweeter to Yankees fans ears than hearing an elite player say they wanted to put on the pinstripes. His ultimate goal is to at least win championship number 30 for the Yankees. Those are lofty goals and I am here for all of it.

3. We have to talk about the sign. That moment was awesome. It feels like this was Cole’s first big Yankee moment and he hasn’t taken the mound yet. Showing everyone the sign was great, but what that gesture represents is even better. It perfectly captures his fandom of the team. This was also a rare moment when a free agent expressed genuine and raw excitement to be a part of his new team. Cole was not putting on a show here. Gerrit Cole signing with the Yankees was truly a dream come true scenario moment for him and he didn’t shy away from it. The Yankees wanted him and he wanted the Yankees. It’s like a feel good ending from some rom-com and I am here for all of it.

4. We all may learn about the craft of pitching over the next nine years. Cole is so impressive when he talks about his process and use of analytics. He is very aware of what makes him good and he is skilled at articulating it. He is also not shy about sharing that information with the public. I go back to his post game interview on the field with Ken Rosenthal after his Game 3 ALCS victory. He succinctly summed up his game plan to attack the Yankees lineup and briefly discussed the adjustments he had to make when he knew he didn’t have great command. The Yankees have mentioned a few times that Cole knows who he is and can go into great detail of what makes that possible. It feels like we’ll all be smarter fans with Cole on the team now.

5. This is a perfect fit. CC Sabathia was a perfect fit when he signed in the winter of 2008. I would say this is an even better match. The Yankees fan plays for his favorite team. The Yankees clear need for an ace. The clear embrace of the market and expectations by that ace pitcher. The established core of the 2020 Yankees team. The arrival of the new, cutting edge pitching coach who emphasizes non traditional approaches to the craft. This is all really exciting. If you don’t want the season to start tomorrow after experiencing this then nothing will. I am fired up and ready for the new season.

Now and Later

2019’s Yankee ace? Close enough. (MLB Gifs)

At the beginning of each school year, my students ask me about tests, exams, and the like. I tell them there won’t really be any. Sure, essays count as exams and serve as ‘tests’ when we finish reading units, but I remind them that it’s English class and the line between a ‘right’ answer and a ‘wrong’ answer is pretty blurred. As a student who struggled with math, I always appreciated that flexibility, the power of interpretation. Last week, the Yankees–Hal Steinbrenner specifically, served up something ripe for interpretation:

Right now, these words mean more than one thing. On their face, they mean Hal believes in his pitchers, as he should; they’re talented and capable of great things. And from a practical standpoint, he has nothing to gain by pointing out whatever shortcomings they may have.

The words also serve as a bit of posturing to gain leverage in any potential free agent or trade negotiations. By sounding content with what they have, they’ll appear less desperate and needy on any open market. This interpretation is logical, but part of me wonders if it’s a bit dated. In this information age of baseball, everyone knows the same sorts of things. Is there really an edge to be gained here? Eh, I’m not so sure anymore. But it’s still worth doing; it may not help much, but it certainly doesn’t hurt, either.

Those two interpretations are optimistic. They see Hal’s comments as necessary for morale and harmony, as well as, at the least, a directionally neutral step before the markets really open. But there is a more pessimistic interpretation we’ve acknowledged before.

Hal’s comments were a little too on the nose. Many have predicted he and Brian Cashman would use the return to health from Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery as an excuse for passing on elite pitching talent like Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg. To those people, this statement reads like it’s laying the groundwork for the inevitable explanation for not signing or trading for a big time pitcher.

All three explanations are about equally plausible. We won’t know which one is ‘true’ for a long time. Hal’s statement is a starting point, the beginning of the offseason’s journey, to be dramatic for a second. The meaning of the statement will hardly be static; with each twist and turn of the winter, it may change meaning from time to time until Spring Training starts and the roster is set. As frustrating as that is, we’ll have to wait until then.

When will then be now? Soon. And soon we’ll find out if Hal’s words were simply posturing or the foundation for an excuse.

Going For The Gusto

The MLB playoffs are not a crapshoot.

Yes, it is small sample size theater. A bad bounce of the ball can alter the outcome of a singular game. A poorly located pitch can change the complexion of a series. These things can all be true, but playoff games are won with talent, attention to detail and execution. Victories in October don’t come from the luck of the draw.

The idea that “anything can happen in the playoffs” isn’t a trustworthy or foundational ethos when looking to construct a championship contending team. We’ve heard too many times from Yankees brass that they just want to make the dance. You punch your ticket to the tournament and see what happens. Well, what’s happening is each Yankees season ends at the hands of a team that built their roster to win in the playoffs. Yankees opponents are aggressively putting their teams in positions to succeed. As each postseason disappointment builds upon one another for this current version of the Yankees, the organization needs to be proactive in building a roster that is built for October and not solely the grind of the regular season.

The Yankees continue to operate with a fatal flaw. We are all well aware that the starting rotation isn’t championship caliber. There is a ton of talent, but there are inconsistencies, durability issues and a sheer lack of pitching length in games. Instead of acquiring players that directly address this weakness, the Yankees repeatedly circumvent them. The decision to maximize the bullpen feels partly based on the Kansas City model, but it is also a smart way to keep payroll in check.

It is unfortunate that the desire to stay under the luxury tax coincided with the rise of this tremendously talented roster. We’re seeing the impact of this balancing act. To be clear, I do acknowledge the importance of operating the franchise with the big picture in mind. This is a multi-billion dollar company and there are responsibilities that fans will never have to consider. Some of the success and good health of the franchise depends on this big picture view. With that said, it feels like this balancing act is hampering the Yankees ability to go big fish hunting. And a big fish is exactly what this team needs.

The Yankee need an ace, but just as importantly, they need the competitive resolution to say they’re absolutely going to acquire one. They can’t continue to settle by spreading the money around with more complimentary pieces. The DJLM, Urshela, Tauchman and Maybin moves are all fantastic. But they can’t continue to bring in J.A. Happ types. We can’t get the *a healthy Severino and Jordan Montgomery are difference makers* talk anymore. The last time the Yankees solely targeted an elite pitcher they ended up with CC Sabathia (I view Tanaka in a different vein). They immediately won a title and CC became a Yankee legend.

You can look across the field to see the impact an organization’s go for broke attitude has on team performance and results. The Houston Astros built up an incredible core (despite the not so cool way they went about doing it) and were bold in their decisions to supplement it. In 2017, they were short a pitcher and took a risk on Justin Verlander. In 2018, they weren’t satisfied with winning one title so they acquired Gerrit Cole. Despite having a two-headed monster this season, the Astros acquired another ace to address their pitching depth in Zack Greinke.

In each scenario, Houston was proactive in bolstering their roster with the absolute best available. They didn’t balk at price. The team wasn’t handcuffing itself to potential rosters in 2023 and 2024. They didn’t operate with the idea that anything can happen in the playoffs. Houston’s approach was they were going to make things happen in the playoffs. That difference in ethos makes all the difference in the world. It fields a team that dictates the game to their opponents because of the imposing talent they possess. Unfortunately, we saw this play out in the ALCS.

After every playoff series loss, Yankees fans and baseball media ask a now aged old question: was the Yankees season a failure? This question feels rooted in privilege. The question’s foundation hints at an assumed ownership of a title. This doesn’t feel like the right question to ask. The more appropriate question is did the organization do everything in its power to put the team in the best position possible to win a championship? The answer to that question for this current group is a resounding no. The results are the ultimate measurement of the process. Their chief competition continues to make bold moves to put their team in as optimal a position to win in the playoffs. The balancing act needs to end. It is time for the Yankees to be bold in addressing their weakness or we’ll be back here next season lamenting another lost opportunity.

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