We’re finally going to get some roster moves tomorrow. It’s been a painfully slow offseason, but tomorrow at 6pm eastern is the deadline to add players to the 40-man roster in order to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. Take a look at our preview of roster addition candidates if you haven’t already. Aside from players simply being added to the 40-man, we may see a trade or two to clean up the roster a bit. Don’t get your hopes up for anything big, but at least it will be something to chew on. While we wait, here are a few things going on in the baseball world:
Robinson Canó suspended for 2021 season after positive PED test
It’s strike two for the former Yankees’ second baseman and current Met. He tested positive for stanozolol, a steroid that is one of the league’s banned substances. He previously served an 80-game PED suspension in 2018 and will now have to serve 162 games next season. He’s still under contract for two more years after 2021.
It’s a huge bummer to see Canó get busted again. He was one of my favorite Yankees of all-time and came up during my teenage years. I was really upset when he departed for Seattle seven years ago too. Robbie was heading toward Cooperstown, and though the first PED suspension may have hurt his candidacy but perhaps not killed it, this second one is probably is the nail in the coffin.
Unsurprisingly, people started connecting the dots between DJ LeMahieu and the Mets after this news broke. It certainly makes sense! I imagine that JT Realmuto, George Springer, and Trevor Bauer are at the top of the crosstown rivals’ wishlist, but we’ll see. The Mets could also just play Jeff McNeil at second base and JD Davis at the hot corner, although signing DJLM and relegating Davis to the bench would be much better for them.
After deliberating on how to make this trade work for both sides, I also realized that the Mets actually make for a pretty nice trade partner with the Yankees. At least, from the Yankees’ perspective. The Mets have a ton of left-handed hitters that the Yankees could use to balance out the lineup. Aside from Canó, there’s Dominic Smith, Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, and Jeff McNeil. Whether or not the Mets are willing to move any of those players is another story, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth pursuing. Considering the ownership transition and likely front office shakeup over in Queens, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume a lot of player changes could come too.
In the past, making a deal with the Mets for a significant player wasn’t worth thinking about. The trade history between both sides is incredibly limited, especially since the Wilpons took control of the Mets in 2002. A few minor trades have snuck through, but nothing really consequential. What’s more: there was bickering between both front offices about separate trades in 2017. Jay Bruce and Neil Walker were nearly sent from Queens to the Bronx. But now, with Steve Cohen presumably getting approval in the coming weeks, things could change.
In this time of quarantine, one of the things we’ve used to distract ourselves is that “you can only pick three” game going around on various social media sites. It’s a silly time waster and ultimately meaningless as none of us will ever have to “pick three” of our favorite forms of entertainment or whatever, but here’s one set of my top three, with others to follow: regular season games.
First up on the list, at least chronologically speaking, is September, 18, 1995. This random September game against the Blue Jays was the first Yankee game I ever attended. There is very little I remember from it, frankly, aside from about where our seats were–lower level, third base line–that I took the above picture with my dad, that there was some guy next to us yelling about how long and dull the game was (he wasn’t wrong, apparently, as there was no scoring till late) and that Willie Randolph, the third base coach at the time, should be the next Yankee manager.
In terms of on the field performance, I don’t remember David Cone pitching as well as he did. All that I remember is Don Mattingly hitting a ball that almost got out over the wall in right field but didn’t and he got thrown out at second because he had kinda started trotting already.
Regardless of what I do and don’t remember, I was a budding baseball fan at the time and my love for the game only increased from then on.
A side note: is it coincidence that the ‘314’ sign is very visible in this picture? Absolutely. But is it more fun to pretend it was a sign of things to come? Absolutely.
Next, again chronologically speaking, we move to August 4, 2007. This game stands out despite it being one of the few I left early. Why did I leave early? Because it was about 950 degrees in the upper deck that day and by the 7th, my friend and I were fried. But why does the game stand out? Because in the first inning, Alex Rodriguez hit his 500th career home run.
He had been stuck on the 499 mark for a while and even though we all knew it would come, I didn’t think it would during the game I attended. When the ball went into the air, my friend and I were both up on our feet, jumping, screaming in unison, “GO! GO! GO! GO!” We waved our arms frantically towards the left field fence, went still and silent for a second as the ball passed over the wall, then screamed again, jumping and hugging as it landed in the seats.
To this day, it’s the only milestone game I’ve been to and probably the only one I’ll ever go to (statistically speaking); luckily, it was a milestone for one of my favorite players ever. That I got to share it with a good friend, someone whom I’ve known since 10th grade and ended up in my wedding party, made it all the better.
Last, but not least, we have a record-setting game: August 25, 2011. In this game, the Yankees hit three grand slams, one each by Robinson Cano, Russell Martin, and Curtis Granderson. Though they won 22-8, they were, at one point, down 7-1 because, and I’m quoting my own recap here “Phil Hughes couldn’t get out of the third and Cory Wade gave up a two run homer.”
I remember driving home from work, turning the radio off because I was so frustrated by the game. As soon as I got home, though, things changed. The final grand slam, the one by Curtis Granderson, came as I was clearing the dinner table and I remember laughing in the kitchen, amused by the absurdity of the situation–another grand slam.
There might be other games I’m note recalling here, but these were the first three that came to mind when thinking of a ‘pick three’ scenario. What are your ‘pick three’ regular season games? Leave them in the comments and let’s Remember Some Games.
Matt’s off this week, so in lieu of his Sunday column, here’s my dissertation on Yankee beards.
Since the early days of George Steinbrenner’s tenure as owner of the Yankees, the Bombers have had a strict facial hair policy. Yes to mustaches, absolutely not to beards or excessively long hair.
Would I love to see the Yankees practice the scraggly art of unkempt or even fine-tuned beards? Sure. But the contrast of non-bearded Bombers gives us a chance to study players changing, one follicle at a time.
If someone is drafted by the Yankees out of high school or signs with the team on July 2 as an international free agency, that player is joining the organization well before their prime as a beard grower. Therefore, for much of their adult life, they’re deprived of the ability to grow out fun, lengthy and sometimes hilariously bad facial hair except in the offseason.
When players leave the Yankees, particularly homegrown talents, each player immediately throws away their razor. OK, maybe not literally, but almost everyone grows a beard shortly after leaving the Bronx. Some pull it off well and some … well, they aren’t quite as gifted.
For a breakdown, here’s an unnecessary categorization of Yankee beards.
The Standard Offseason Beard aka the CC
The most common beard you see from a Yankees player is the offseason beard. Without responsibilities to the team, players can go wild from November to February with hirsute appearances.
There is one undisputed champion in this category; CC Sabathia leads the Yankees in Offseason Beards Above Replacement. As he talked about on R2C2, he’s even mastered the in-season beard after learning at the feet of the master, Andy Pettitte, by finding ways to let some growth come up in-between starts. Since he’s now retired, he was quick to start the process back up.
Let’s check out this offseason work from 2014:
That, my friends, is a master at work. CC tested, LeBron approved.
Bernie Williams takes the cake here. First up, his appearance on Seinfeld:
You know that the Yankees are either in a stetch of off-days or the offseason, as Bernie is rocking the goatee. Considering the show aired in November, it’s likely the latter.
Yet Williams was not done. Six years later, he took part in MLB’s trip to Japan and played against Koji Uehara, among others. Most notably, he sported a devilish goatee again, this time in full Yankee pinstripes. We must bow down to this flagrant display of whiskers.
For most players, this is a right of passage. You play for the Yankees for a while and shave every day. Once you leave the Bronx, you want to see what you can do. Most players don’t abuse this newfound power and put together a fine look.
It’s not perfect, but it’s a strong effort from the baby-faced Hughes to blend into the adult world of Minneapolis. I dare say he pulls it off.
Example II: David Robertson and Melky Cabrera
This … This is the Bad Place! I didn’t want to see David Robertson with a beard, so now you have to as well. He put in the effort, but he was meant to be clean-shaven. (Melky’s beard fits him. Don’t @ me.)
Robertson has since tried to hide all evidence of his bearded days with his glove.
Sometimes, there are visionaries in a field. Someone who knows instantly their true calling and makes strides that others simply cannot. That is Robinson Cano and the mustache-less beard. He brought it out at his introductory press conference. That’s how much confidence he had in it.
Look, Joba was great. He’s a World Series champion and was just about as fun a middle reliever as one could watch. That being said, he made a follicle folly. Chamberlain appears to have spent 10 years at sea on a crab-fishing expedition and barely lived to tell the tale. This took the post-Yankee beard past the line.
As promised, here’s Kennedy doing the same in San Diego.
However, let’s check on the work of one Jonathan Holder. He was drafted by the Yankees but out of college. While at Mississippi State, Holder, aka Kenny Powers, clearly saw grooming as an optional pursuit meant for everyone else.
In the last decade, the Yankees did not have an AL MVP. They didn’t have a Cy Young winner. They earned one Rookie of the Year, one Comeback Player of the Year and two Relievers of the Year.
For the team that produced the most regular season wins in the 2010s, that’s surprising. The Bombers still had an impressive collection of talent that rivals previous decades of the organization.
We decided to put together the Yankees’ best team of the last decade in two parts. First, in this edition, we’ve assembled a 25-man roster of the best players the team had in the 2010s, taking into account the whole of their accomplishments. In Part II, we’ll take a look at the individual seasons that stood out and merited inclusion here.
Let’s get to positions.
Catcher: Gary Sánchez
The Yankees have had good production from catcher in the 2010s, but it has come from a variety of players. Jorge Posada, Russell Martin, Chris Stewart, Brian McCann and Sánchez have all held down the job, with a healthy dose of Francisco Cervelli in-between. On the whole, pinstriped backstops have a 98 wRC+ and 40.8 fWAR, good for third and fourth-best in all of baseball in the span.
Of the aforementioned catchers, Sánchez has been the best of them this decade (2000s Jorge Posada would be a different question). In 3 1/2 full seasons, he’s bashed 105 home runs, more than any catcher in baseball since 2016. It’s four more than Yasmani Grandal, and 29 more than the next hitter. For his defensive warts, the Kraken is still a tremendous force.
First Base: Mark Teixeira
Teixeira’s best season in pinstripes was his debut in 2009, when he produced 5.3 WAR, finished second in MVP voting and won both a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger. His 2010s, particularly after 2011, were injury-filled as his steady switch-hitting bat was taken out of the lineup far too often.
For the first half of the decade, the Yankees went as Teixeira went. He was still productive from 2010-12, producing 11.3 bWAR and winning two Gold Gloves. When a wrist injury derailed both his 2013 and ’14 seasons, the Yankees’ offense lacked the necessary juice to reach the postseason. Then, when Tex regained All-Star form in 2015, he became the driving force to an unlikely wild card bid.
Second Base: Robinson Canó
Starlin Castro proved a fine stopgap and Gleyber Torres is going to man the middle of the Yankees’ infield for at least the next five years at least. However, Canó was the best Yankees second baseman in recent memory and his breakout season coincided with the turn of the decade.
From 2010 to 2013, Canó batted .312/.373/.533 (142 wRC+) and finished no worse than sixth in MVP voting every season while playing no fewer than 159 games. He slugged 117 homers and 176 doubles in that span and made up for his lack of walks (#KabakHat) by putting the ball in play with his line-drive swing. While Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter defined the 2009 World Series run on offense, Canó was the catalyst for the last gasps of that title window.
Shortstop: Didi Gregorius
This is the first one with two legitimate candidates, though Gregorius ultimately runs away with the honor. Jeter held down shortstop longer than he likely should have, yet he made four All-Star teams, somehow won a Gold Glove and was 2012 hit king, all 2010 or later.
Gregorius, meanwhile, had to come from underneath Jeter’s shadow, but he learned to excel in the Bronx and became a fan favorite in his own right. His defense kept him steady, yet it was his shockingly powerful bat that won the Bronx faithful over. He now owns the record for most home runs in a season by a Yankee shortstop (Gleyber nearly qualified to break it in 2019) and has more than a few memorable playoff homers to his ledger.
Third Base: Alex Rodriguez
By the end of the decade, A-Rod was in the broadcast booth. Before that, he was a DH. Before that, he was suspended for a year. And before that, injuries and age had sapped his production and turned him from MVP to mere All-Star.
Still, Rodriguez had back-to-back-to-back 4.0 WAR seasons from 2010-12 and launched 113 homers, including two 30-dinger years. I’m including his bounceback at DH under here, even though his 2015-16 seasons included all of 18 innings at the hot corner.
A-Rod had an eclectic group of successors. They include Chase Headley, the brief rise of Yangervis Solarte, Todd Frazier’s three months and Miguel Andújar, as well as the out-of-nowhere Gio Urshela in 2019. The last two are contenders for best season at third in NY this decade, but they don’t have the longevity of Rodriguez.
Left Field: Brett Gardner
The de facto Yankees captain of the last five years, Gardner is the longest-tenured Yankee for a reason. He started in center field for brief, non-congruous periods, but he became a Gold Glover in left field. It’s insane to think back to 2009 Gardner, who hit only three dongs, and then realize he hit 121 dingers over the following decade.
In addition to that, Gardner led the Bombers with 228 stolen bases in the 2010s and was successful on 80.5 percent of his steals. He’s not quite the spritely slap hitter of yesteryear, but he’s adjusted to the game and stayed in pinstripes all the while.
Center Field: Curtis Granderson
Aaron Hicks has an argument after usurping Jacoby Ellsbury in 2017 and playing well in center for the last three years. However, this is Granderson’s job, even with a move to left field by the end of his time in the Bronx.
Granderson hit 84 homers between the 2011 and ’12 seasons, leading baseball in runs scored and RBI in 2011. His weak arm made him a liability at times in the outfield, but he was a wrecking ball at the plate. His 2011 season, which was his second in New York, was a career year and the best from a Yankee center fielder since prime Bernie Williams.
Right Field: Aaron Judge
Judge transformed the Yankees in 2017. When he became an MVP-type player, the Bombers became contenders with him as their leader. If he were a one-hit (or 52-homer) wonder after 2017, dayenu. Yet he’s improved in some ways, becoming a more selective hitter and having his overall numbers only hampered by injury.
Nick Swisher deserves mention here as an All-Star and fan favorite in his own right. Funny enough, the compensation pick for letting Swisher go was the one the Yankees used to pick Judge. It all comes full circle.
Designated Hitter: Giancarlo Stanton
With A-Rod at third base, there’s no clear cut DH like a David Ortiz or Hideki Matsui to put here. Posada, Eric Chavez, Raul Ibanez, Marcus Thames and Matt Holliday each had one good year with a host of a DH ABs, but Stanton gets the crown both with how he carried the team to the postseason in 2018 and how he stuck around for a second year.
Stanton will likely be one of the few players on this list that could repeat at his position in the 2020s, alongside Judge and Sanchez. Ideally, he’d play enough left field to earn recognition there, but his injury history makes that a debatable assumption.
If you’re putting these nine players into a lineup, weighing the player they were this decade, it’d go something like this:
Actual bench players: Cervelli, Andruw Jones, Chris Young, Ronald Torreyes
Next best to form bench: Martin, Gleyber, Swisher, Hicks or Jeter
You can go at building the bench in two ways: You can either use the actual bench players from the previous 10 years, or you can take the next best players that missed the list and try to back up each position. I give you both.
In the first one, Cervelli is listed as the starter in 2010 on Baseball Reference, but he was the primary backup for a few seasons. Jones and Young each had a great season as a platoon bat, while Torreyes was a steady utility man, never hitting all that well, but doing just enough to stay rostered.
In the second scenario, Martin or McCann could get the spot while Swisher is an easy choice as an outfielder and backup first baseman. Torres can backup the middle infield and third base in a pinch, which leaves it down to Hicks or Jeter. Either will do, I’ll take Hicks for an actual bench spot.
You can quibble with the order of the rotation as long as you put Sabathia at the top. There isn’t much you need to say about him. He was the heart and soul of the Yankees for 11 years and both served as an ace and a steady back-end starter.
Kuroda is one of the most underappreciated Yankees of the 21st century. He was only in the Bronx for three years, yet he outpaced his four seasons in Los Angeles in that time. It’s a shame he only got to pitch on one playoff team in New York.
Tanaka and Severino have been the Opening Day starters since Sabathia ceded the role in recent seasons and they’re both worthy of the honor. Tanaka looked like an ace before his Tommy John scare and has been a steadying presence with a knack for the big game since. Severino, meanwhile, is closer to actual ace-hood when healthy and his stretch from the start of 2017 to mid-2018 is about as good as any Yankee pitcher in the last couple decades.
The last spot was tough, choosing between Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, Michael Pineda and Pettitte. The Bombers haven’t had tremendous starting pitching depth this decade and it shows in this. Pettitte got the spot because he was truly excellent, albeit in just 121 innings, in 2010, and was solid again in his final two seasons after his first retirement. An added bonus is how he helped Sabathia turn into a crafty lefty in his own mold.
Closer: Mariano Rivera Middle Relief: Dellin Betances, Aroldis Chapman, David Robertson, Andrew Miller, Chad Green Long Man: Adam Warren
There’s a legitimate case for Chapman or Robertson as the closer, but how could you not go with Rivera? He was still at the top of his game in 2010 and was excellent still over his final two full seasons. Over 193 2/3 innings after turning 40 just before the 2010 season, he had a 1.95 ERA (216 ERA+) with 167 strikeouts to 30 walks and a 0.929 WHIP.
The middle relief is a murderer’s row of potential or actual closers. Betances was the best reliever in baseball from 2014 to 2018. Chapman probably has the title since Rivera retired. Robertson and Miller were lights out and helped lead superbullpens that made the post-Mo years tolerable. Green, meanwhile, is a multi-inning stud and his 2017 season is up there with 1996 Mo and 2014 Betances for best New York reliever seasons of the last 30 years.
I figured, if we’re putting together an actual roster, we might as well put in a long man, a role that Warren fit like a glove. He was a great swingman in the Bronx and even did OK as a middle reliever. If you’re going with the next best reliever of the decade, Tommy Kahnle or Rafael Soriano are each worthy of inclusion.