With Houston’s 7-2 victory over Atlanta in Game 2 last night, the World Series is level at 1-1. I was hoping Atlanta would win, and not because it’s the Astros. Rather, because it would be fun to remind everyone what happened the last time they were up 2-0 in the Fall Classic and headed home for Games 3 through 5.
Ah, yes, that’s the stuff. But hey, at least we can remind everyone that the last time there were World Series games in the state of Georgia (1999), the Yankees also took care of business.
Anyway, I’ve come around to accepting the possibility of the Astros winning the title this year. Obviously, it was never my first choice coming into October, but I’ll be able to be happy for Dusty Baker if his club pulls this off. He absolutely deserves a ring with his body of work. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I’m openly rooting for the Astros, but the world won’t end if they do win it all.
So, with that, allow me to share some of my Yankees-related thoughts. A lot of this is going to be about a certain article that you presumably read (or read snippets of) this week, so brace yourselves. I’m not going to link to it here, but if you really want to look for it, it’s not hard to find.
There’s no way for us to know whether or not Joey Gallo is a fit for New York. There’s been a lot of hubbub about the outfielder’s ability to handle the New York market ever since that article came out a few days ago. From a silly anecdote about his pregame routine to one (1!) scout questioning the Yankees background check prior to the trade, some folks used this as ammo for trading Gallo this offseason. He had an appropriate response to all of this:
Me: Literally gets dressed.— Joey Gallo (@JoeyGallo24) October 25, 2021
Media: Yup that’s why he sucks. https://t.co/5xaRjecvQf
Do I really need to say that Gallo isn’t the only major leaguer with a quirky routine? So what if he wants his uniform to fit just right? Jason Giambi used to wear a golden thong while slumping. Roger Clemens put icy hot on his nether regions. Wade Boggs ate chicken before every game.
Now, to that quote from a scout. Let me again re-emphasize that this is one scout saying this. I feel like we see this sort of reporting far too often in MLB nowadays. This very well could be opinion shopping. Is it too much to check with multiple scouts on this? Various scouts have varying opinions, but if you publish one with a juicy quote, it must be true, right? Ugh.
Before this came out, concerns about Gallo’s fit in the Bronx solely related to his performance. Did he play well for the Yankees? God, no. Gallo batted .160/.303/.404 (95 wRC+) with 13 homers and 88 strikeouts (38.6%) in 228 plate appearances. There were also some shaky moments defensively. None of this was pretty, and now, his name has come up in trade speculation since the season ended.
Whether he gets dealt or not, judging his fit in New York based on stats alone reeks of confirmation bias. It could be true that Gallo isn’t a good fit for this market, but it’s not because of how he hit in a 58 game sample. Sorry, it just isn’t.
Now, maybe Gallo isn’t a great fit on this roster after all, especially if one of the team’s goals is to become more contact-oriented. That’s a different argument that I’m not necessarily opposed to. I still think Gallo is a really good player on the whole, but miss me with the “he can’t handle New York” talk.
Are we going to pretend that one of Brett Gardner’s pranks never pissed someone else off before Gerrit Cole? I mean, come on. Gardner is well known as the clubhouse prankster, and even without any inside info, I’m almost certain that not all of his pranks have gone over well. Just a hunch. Some players on the other end of them are going to be sensitive.
Even if my hunch is wrong, the bigger thing from the story is that Cole apologized for his response to Gardy. Had there been a lingering beef all season long without an apology, maybe this is a bigger story.
In any case, I’m not sure what this tidbit is supposed to get at. That Cole can’t handle the pressure of New York either? Or that he can’t pitch without sticky stuff? Both are BS. Lest we forget how Cole pitched in the postseason in 2020, or how he eviscerated the Yankees in the Bronx in 2019? Or, that pre-hamstring injury, Cole looked great after adjusting to the post-sticky stuff world? In 8 starts from July 10th through September 1st, Cole had a 2.34 ERA and 1.47 FIP in 50 innings. GTFOH with the “he needs spider tack” takes. He was hurt at the end of the year. That’s it.
Closing thoughts on this article. As Bradford William Davis said on the most recent Five and Dive podcast for Baseball Prospectus, this type of report typically isn’t published without confirmation from a second source or multiple sources. He noted that, while he still worked there, his editor at the Daily News would not have published a story like this without an additional source. And that makes total sense: information from one eyewitness source should be crosschecked.
But in this case, clicks won out over veracity. And hey, the writer of the piece likely is very well sourced — he’s been around the Yankees forever — but this feels like pretty basic journalism from my perspective as an outsider to the industry.
On the latest R2C2 podcast, CC Sabathia also addressed these reports. His biggest takeaway was that whoever leaked this info needs to be removed from the clubhouse. Whether it’s a player needing to be traded, moving a clubhouse attendant to a different role, or something else entirely, I can’t say I disagree with CC.
OK, let’s talk some actual on-field baseball stuff now.
We know the Yankees need a shortstop, but I think the need for a stable center fielder is being undersold. We talked about this a little bit on last week’s podcast, and I want to raise it again here. It’s quite clear that the Yankees will have a new shortstop in 2022. First base will also be addressed in some shape or form. One position that, at least from my vantage point, seems less discussed is center field.Embed from Getty Images
Try telling me the Yankees don’t need help in center field after looking at the incumbents:
- Brett Gardner could be back next season. That’s fine, but the Yankees can’t have him play 105 games in center field again. Not as a 38 year-old.
- Aaron Hicks has appeared in 38 percent of possible games since 2019. While he is expected to be ready to start 2022 healthy, it’s difficult to count on him given his track record. He’s also 32, so the best years of his career are likely behind him already.
- Aaron Judge isn’t a traditional center fielder, even if he plays it admirably. Joey Gallo fits better in a corner spot, too.
- Estevan Florial hit .218/.315/.404 (93 wRC+) with a 30.9 percent strikeout rate in Triple-A. He’s not ready, and he might not ever make enough contact to be a major league regular anyway.
Now, it’s not easy to find a center fielder. Teams don’t typically trade good ones away! There is one guy on the free agent market though who would be a really good fit: Starling Marte.
Marte’s just a year older than Hicks and owns a .291/.348/.468 (119 wRC+) batting line since 2018. That also comes with good power (61 homers, .177 ISO), good speed (115 stolen bases), plenty of contact (17.4 percent strikeout rate), and above-average defense per Statcast. What’s not to like? Giving a multi-year deal to a 33 year-old at a demanding position is a valid concern, but options are limited.
We’ll do a more detailed look at Marte later this offseason. I’m sure we’ll also scrounge up some trade targets who could fill the void (Ketel Marte, Trent Grisham?). For now though, I just wanted to say that I think center field should be a top priority, perhaps moreso than first base.