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Expectations

Expect the unexpected and you’ll never be surprised, right? Although if you’re expecting it, is it unexpected? Regardless of that philosophical quandary, it’s safe to say that when the Yankees played their final game of 2019, none of us would have expected the situation we’re in now. But here we are now, unsure of what to expect going forward.

There are some things laid out for us: an expanded roster (which was coming anyway), a universal DH (thank the baseball gods), and a condensed, sprint of a schedule against a limited spate of opponents.

Given what we know about baseball in general, combined with these unique circumstances, here are a few things I expect, some more serious than others.

I expect that the pitchers will be ahead of the hitters. This is a baseball truism that, like all baseball truisms, doesn’t always hold, uh, true, but for now, I certainly expect it. Gerrit Cole is reportedly already up to the mid-high 90’s with his fastball and I’d imagine a lot of other pitchers are pretty geared up. It’s likely been easier for them, generally speaking, to ramp up to their game shape than it has been for hitters. Despite the universal DH–more on that shortly–I think the beginning of the season, league-wide, will be a little lower scoring than normal.

As for the universal DH, I expect that fans of the NL will finally come around. First, they’ll see it’s not the unholy abomination they think it is. Second, they’ll realize how much more appealing it is to watch nine real hitters instead of eight. Third, they’ll realize that the double-switch is not the be-all, end-all of baseball strategy.

But, unfortunately, what I expect is actually…nothing. And by that I mean I don’t expect a single meaningful pitch to be thrown this year. There are still a few weeks until the start of the season, but with news trickling in every day about players testing positive for COVID and with David Price deciding to sit out the year, I feel like things are coming to a head. We even got one hell of an omen yesterday with Masahiro Tanaka taking a line drive to the head (all well wishes to him for a speedy recovery, of course). Every day, holding a season feels more and more irresponsible and less and less ethical or likely.

Do I want there to be a baseball season? I used to say yes but that I knew there shouldn’t be. At this point, I don’t even think I really want it anymore. The risks are too great and the rewards too small.

And one last expectation, though this is more for you: I’m about to be a dad a second time over, so I’ll likely be gone from this space (and the podcast) for a little bit. Please don’t miss me too much.

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The Views From 314ft Podcast Episode 16: Pandemic Baseball

Randy and Matt join forces to discuss the big news that MLB will have a 60 game season for 2020. We jump into the conversation asking how comfortable we are with baseball returning as COVID-19 infection rates spike in many states throughout the country. Beyond that, we go through some of the proposed rule changes that will definitely make this season unlike any other we’ve seen before.

Despite New York City entering Phase 2 this week, we are still recording remotely. We are operating over Skype so we apologize in advance for any sound quality issues.

The podcast is now available on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher so please subscribe, drop a five-star rating, and spread the word. We hope this gives you some distraction from all the craziness in the world right now. 

Again, we apologize for any sound quality issues. We’re making the most of a tough situation as all of you are. Please don’t forget to subscribe to the pod and spread the word.

Thinking Optimistically About the Lineup

I’m going to do something dangerous here. No, not quite as dangerous as going maskless or eschewing social distancing, but a pretty dangerous things as Yankees baseball goes. I’m going to take Aaron Boone at his word regarding injuries.

A note that this is all obviously premature and dependent on whether or not MLB and the MLBPA can come to an agreement about how to bring baseball back safely…if such a thing is even possible. I’m still not convinced there’s a way to do that this calendar year. Do I want there to be baseball this year? Sure. Do I think there should be baseball this year? Probably not. But let’s just pretend everything is okay, even for just the length of this post.

According to Boone, of the Yankees’ four injured stars–Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton, and James Paxton–two of them will be ready to go for a July Opening Day: Stanton and Paxton. I’d assume that given the timeline, Hicks could be ready, but I doubt it. Let’s assume not and assume that Judge won’t be close because, well, there’s no indication he would be close to close, let alone close itself. What a mess…

With Stanton back, let’s take a look at what the lineup could be. He slots into left field, presumably with Brett Gardner manning center and, presumably, Clint Frazier in right, unless the Yankees want to roll with Mike Tauchman, which could be a possibility. But since I like Frazier more and this is my post, I’m going to say Frazier. That’ll push Miguel Andujar to the DH spot, delaying some complications with his playing time that’ll arise when the outfield gets even more full.

The lineup itself?

  1. Gardner, CF
  2. DJ LeMahieu, 2B
  3. Giancarlo Stanton, LF/RF
  4. Gleyber Torres, SS
  5. Gary Sanchez, C
  6. Luke Voit, 1B
  7. Miguel Andujar, DH
  8. Gio Urshela, 3B
  9. Clint Frazier, LF/RF

That seems pretty okay, right? At the very least, the first six is a gauntlet and the bottom three all have big time potential. If defense is a concern, you can easily use Tauchman for either Stanton or Frazier in the late innings with a lead.

This is all academic until we know there’s going to be a season, but it’s nice to pretend every so often during this ridiculous time.

Please stay safe, everyone.

Spring Training News & Notes: Gary Battles The Flu, Monty Remains Sharp, Injury Updates

We’ve hit the doldrums of Yankees spring training. We’re beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but we’re not yet close enough to feel its warmth. The pitchers continue to prepare for the season and the position players continue to get their reps in. The injuries have settled some potential position battles so the main focus is keeping the roster as healthy as possible heading into Opening Day. To that end, let’s jump into today’s news and notes.

Gary Sánchez Diagnosed With The Flu

Yankees catcher Gary Sánchez has missed the last few days of spring training with lower back issues. He was scheduled to resume batting practice activities this morning. Sánchez wasn’t seen with his assigned group during batting practice. It was announced later on that Sánchez was sent home with a “little fever.”

With the coronavirus global pandemic, there was immediate concern that Gary contracted the illness. After the game, the Yankees provided this update:

The Yankees avert a serious crisis for now. Can you imagine what would happen if a player contracted coronavirus? It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for that team to immediately halt their spring training camp. MLB has removed media from team locker rooms in a controversial step to curtail close interaction with the players. The flu isn’t a pleasant experience, but at least there are measures to treat it compared to the coronavirus.

To that end, Yankees players and personnel have met with the team doctor to address COVID-19. Zack Britton told reporters that the team has been in contact with the company in charge of their air travel to ensure their charter plane is properly sanitized. Britton, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gerrit Cole all agreed that precautions were necessary to help curtail the spread of the virus.

This is a problem that MLB will have to address in the immediate future. Multiple sporting events have been canceled, postponed or played in front of empty arenas. With Opening Day a couple weeks away, MLB is closing in on a potentially dangerous scenario. There is also the very real possibility of a player contracting the virus. We’ll be reading about this in the coming days. Hopefully, there were won’t be any significant bad news moving forward.

Jordan Montgomery Continues To Impress

Amidst all of the injury news, Jordan Montgomery is posting an impressive camp. We’ve covered the uptick in velocity, but today’s relief outing also showcased efficiency with a couple three up and three down innings. Yankees manager Aaron Boone is really happy with the tall lefty:

Been really excited from the git-go with him. Bullpens, to the uptick in velocity . . . He did a lot of things really good. The curveball was good. The changeup was really good. You saw even a couple of the at-bats where he was behind in the count, just not real comfortable swings even on his fastball, and he finished off the outing with that cutter on his last strikeout. There’s a lot there to be excited about.

Aaron Boone Courtesy of Anthony Reiber

Monty had a line of 4IP, 0H, 0BB, 0ER, 5Ks. He was effective in and around the zone all afternoon. Here is one example:

Montgomery is a crucial piece for the Yankees rotation. There should be a high level of confidence in Cole and Tanaka. J.A. Happ’s spring offers encouragement, but we need to see it translate into the season. The fifth rotation spot is going to an unproven young pitcher or an opener. The Yankees need a consistent and stable Jordan Montgomery. It will make a world of difference in navigating through the early part of the season. Montgomery entered this season as an interesting option for the team. Now, the Yankees will rely upon him to immediately deliver. His spring is very encouraging.

Finally Some Positive Injury Updates

The Yankees gave positive updates on two players currently out of action. James Paxton, who underwent back surgery last month, will play catch tomorrow. This is a relatively minor step forward, but a necessary one. The team has been hopeful that Paxton would return on the shorter end of his timeline. Obviously, the sooner he can get on the mound the better. The rotation certainly needs him.

Giancarlo Stanton will begin running outside shortly. Here is an update from the man himself courtesy of Bryan Hoch:

Stanton is already resuming baseball activities. That is a great sign. The team didn’t announce any timeline for a return, but once Giancarlo begins running on the field a return to games shouldn’t be too far behind. The lineup depth is facing a real test early on. A Stanton return in early April would be a huge boost. Of course, we have to take these things one step at a time given the neverending injury bug. This recent Stanton news is a good sign though.

Leftovers

  • Gerrit Cole returned to his normal dominant self. He finished his start today with a line of 3 1/3IP, 2H, 1ER, 0BB, 6K, 1WP. Ho hum.
  • Aaron Boone told the media that both Miguel Andújar and Clint Frazier will each get work in left and right field in the next few games.
  • We launched the first episode of The Views From 314FT Podcast this morning. Bobby, Derek and I discussed all the injuries and potential roster machinations. Please give it a listen and share it with your networks. The podcast will be available on all podcast platforms once the approval process is complete.

Have a great night everyone!

Yu Darvish and Accepting Failure

Yu know it. (MLB Gifs)

If you’ve seen a lick of baseball news this week, you’ve certainly heard about the sign-stealing allegations against the Houston Astros.

To sum it up, the Astros are accused by both one of their former players and opposing pitchers of using a video camera to steal signs, then relay those signs by banging on trash cans. All of this allegedly occurred during the 2017 regular season, though we don’t know if it extended into the postseason or into the subsequent pair of seasons.

Immediately, you might think, “They’re not the only ones doing this. They’re just the ones that got caught.” That’s likely true, but also beside the point. The Red Sox and Yankees were each punished after Boston’s Apple Watch incident in 2017 and New York’s own questions involving their bullpen phone. The Brewers and Rangers have also been accused.

Yet it appears to the Astros may have both been more sophisticated and more willing to break the rules and norms. It might ultimately be unfair to punish them if many teams are doing the same, but this is something Major League Baseball ultimately wants to eliminate, particularly as technology only gets more sophisticated.

Over the course of the last three years, the Astros were not only successful but historically so. They struck out less than any other team and posted offensive numbers far above league averages in ways not seen in decades. Their individual players became household names and took home prestigious awards.

And, of course, they won the 2017 World Series while coming darn close to taking the 2019 crown as well. In both of those seasons, they beat the Yankees in the ALCS. To clinch the 2017 title, they beat the Dodgers, a 104-win team that ran through the National League.

Now there’s a cloud over all of their success. That’s what cheating allegations do. It still hangs above the Patriots’ dominance of the 21st Century after they were implicated in Gates of the Spy and Deflate variety. Even though it wasn’t about cheating, Saints fans are still in an uproar over a missed call in last year’s NFC title game. When a championship is seemingly stolen from you by artificial means, it’s infuriating on another level than an average loss.

If anyone has a gripe with the Astros, particularly the 2017 edition, it’s Yu Darvish. His reputation was sullied in the Fall Classic that year as the Astros tagged him for nine runs across just 3 1/3 innings in two starts, including the decisive Game 7. After striking out 14 batters in two prior postseason starts, he failed to fan one batter in the World Series.

At the time, the Astros intimated that Darvish was tipping his pitches. Now, there’s speculation that Houston was instead stealing his signs and gaining an unfair advantage that swung the series. If the veteran hurler wanted to cry foul and blame the Astros’ supposed cheating for his lack of success, he’d have plenty of justification. However, Darvish refrained from doing so when speaking about the issue with the Los Angeles Times.

“I feel that if I absolve myself and say it was the Astros’ fault I was bad in Game 7, in the World Series, I can’t develop as a person,” Darvish told Dylan Hernandez. “In life, I think huge failures are extremely important. I’ve had a few up to this point. The World Series was one of them. I think it will remain a point of reference for me. I’ve already learned a lot from it. So regarding that, I can’t view myself charitably. I think I have to continue to accept the results.”

Darvish’s sentiment here is remarkably healthy and potentially instructive for Yankees fans. Losing to Houston in 2017 and ’19 remains painful and won’t be undone, no matter what MLB’s investigation of the Astros uncovers. While the Yankees went 1-6 in Houston over those two postseasons, they scored just three runs in four games during the first ALCS, which can’t be blamed on signs. Suing the Astros won’t bring you any happiness.

We’ll never know what affect the alleged sign-stealing had on the past three seasons in baseball. That’s life, unfortunately. You can play with what-ifs and if-onlys forever and you still return to the same reality, the one with events in the same exact order. (I’m also a hypocrite: I’m going to have a post examing the 2010 postseason next week.)

Instead, we should take a page from Darvish, learn from our failures, even if they aren’t entirely ours. Personally, I’ll never forget running for a position at my college newspaper and losing. I dwelt upon that and blamed everyone but myself for months, wallowing in perceived slights. Moving past it and looking inward was the only way I could learn and gain anything positive from the admittedly bitter experience.

As for the Yankees, it’s hard to not to develop hatred towards an opponent that not only beat you but may have cheated you. However, New York has to plan how to improve its 2020 roster regardless and find a way to get over the hump. Living in 2017 and studying videotape for bangs of a makeshift drum won’t get the Yankees a title. You can feel however you want about Houston, and 2017/2019 won’t become positive memories any time soon, but the Yankees’ role in that drama is over, and Yu Darvish has the right of it.

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