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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: MICHAEL O'NEILL


By now you know that we at BYB like to help you get familiar with the players striving to reach the big league club.   To that end, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael O’Neill, outfielder for the Charleston RiverDogs and someone Casey got to see play live just last week. (Read A PERFECT NIGHT WITH THE CHARLESTON RIVERDOGS).

Yes, Michael is of that O’Neill lineage – Paul is his uncle, but what I discovered is a young player who embraces his uncle’s legacy, yet stays true to who he is in the pursuit of his Yankees dream.

O’Neill was drafted by the Bombers in the third round of the 2013 draft out of the University of Michigan.  He was initially assigned to Low-A Staten Island where the outfielder struggled somewhat at the plate; hitting .219 with 93 strikeouts in 64 games (256 AB).  This season with the RiverDogs, the 22-year-old has improved in virtually every batting category.  Through 129 games he’s hitting .256 with 10 home runs and 57 RBIs.

I talked with Michael shortly before a game against Greenville; a game where he would go 1-for-4 with three runs scored and an RBI (with 2 walks).


BYB:  Growing up, was baseball always your favorite sport? 

Michael O'Neill: Yes, definitely, growing up there were many games where I watched my uncle play.  I played some basketball when I was little too, but my first passion was always baseball for sure. 

BYB:  And you always play the outfield?

Michael O’Neill: I think, like every other Little Leaguer, everyone wants to be the shortstop, so I played there for a little bit – until I was around 10 or 11, and from then on I was in the outfield.

BYB: Who was your greatest influence in baseball?  Who introduced you to the sport?  Who supported you in it?

Michael O’Neill: I decided I wanted to play baseball just by watching my uncle play.  My parents played a big role in supporting my decision and supporting me financially – I expected to play Little League and travel baseball and all of that.   I think it was a combination of people: my uncle, my parents, and many others who allowed me to follow my dream of playing baseball. 

BYB:  Did you have an idol?

Michael O’Neill: Yeah, my uncle.

BYB:  You were drafted in the third round of 2013.  What was your reaction to having the Yankees pick you? 

Michael O’Neill: Obviously I was excited.  It’s the best sports franchise in the world. You can’t have too many complaints about that.  I had an idea they were going to draft me – they drafted me out of high school (in 2010 the Yankees selected O’Neill in the 42nd round.  He chose to go to college.).  They were interested in me while I was at Michigan, so it wasn’t a huge surprise, but it was a definitely a big honor. 

BYB:  Where were you when you found out and what did you do? 

Michael O’Neill: I watched the draft at one of my uncles’ house in Cincinnati, and then when I got drafted I was actually at my house just with my parents, watching on the computer.  I gave my parents a big hug and then a bunch of my friends and family reached out to me and it was an exciting day all-around.  Then we went out to dinner to celebrate.

BYB:  You’ve improved in virtually every category over your first year at Staten Island.  What do you think has been the biggest difference?  What has helped you the most in improving?

Michael O’Neill:  Well, first off, this is my second year, so last year everything was new.  The travel schedule was new; the playing every day at night was new.  That’s one thing, but just committing me to becoming better in the offseason.   I started the offseason at the Yankees complex in Tampa working with several people just to fine tune some things which I need like my swing, and the strength and conditioning staff down there… so, I think that was the biggest difference – the amount of work I put in during the offseason with the right people.

BYB: Has there been any coach in particular that has helped you the most? 

Michael O’Neill:  Well yeah, I have worked with two of the hitting coaches down in Tampa that have been really good for me, and then obviously the whole staff has been good for me, so it’s been a good year just development-wise.  Like you said, I’ve been able to improve in many areas and you just want to get better every year.  It’s good that you show people that you are making the effort to get better and you are getting better.  So, it’s what I’ve been able to do this year, and it’s something I hope to be able to do for however many years I can play the game. 

BYB: Is there any particular part of your game that you are working on right now? 

Michael O’Neill:  Yeah, I’m always working on something.  Right now I’m just trying to get my load at the plate to be more consistent – to get me in the best position I can to drive the baseball.  Defensively I’m working on line-drives and fly balls over my head - going back on the ball in the outfield.  At the plate I’m just trying to be as consistent as I can.


BYB: A few weeks ago I spoke with Ian Clarkin, and he indicated that the team (Charleston) was a pretty close-knit squad. (read EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: IAN CLARKIN for more.)  Is there anyone there that you are closest to, or hang out with the most? 


Michael O’Neill:  Yeah, I hung out a lot with Aaron Judge – he was my roommate.  Then when he got promoted, I hang out a lot with Tyler Wade and John Murphy.  I hung out with Mike Ford a lot, but he just got promoted.  I’d say there are two or three guys I do the most with – Rookie Davis too – he’s a pitcher.  Those are a few names I can throw out there… 

BYB: Sounds like you’re the guy everyone should want to hang around with – it seems like they all get promoted! 

Michael O’NeillHa…yeah, I’ve had, I think, three of them now that have gotten the call up. 

BYB:  Is there a favorite non-baseball activity that you have? 

Michael O’Neill: Hmmm… I’m really big into cars, but I don’t like working on them.   I just like looking at them and driving them. 

BYB:  …and eventually someday collecting them??? 

Michael O’Neill:  Hopefully….that would be fun.   I don’t know, we spend so much time at the field that when you get an off day, you just want to decompress as much as you can.  During the off days I try to go to the beach and spend time with teammates – just try to get away from the game for 24 hours.


BYB: Earlier you mentioned your uncle.  Obviously Paul O’Neill is very beloved and endeared to Yankees fans everywhere.  How has his legacy influenced you?   Has it been positive for you, or put too much pressure on you? 

Michael O’Neill:  Yeah, it’s definitely something you think about.  I mean, there are people in the organization now that were here when he was here, so you know those people, but I try not to let it affect me.  I try not to think about it.  I don’t wear the same number he did for that reason.   I want to be my own player.  I want to make it on my own.  I’m either going to make it on my own, or I’m not going to make it.  I don’t want to stay in the organization just because of who was in my family.  That is big for me.  When I was still in high school I got drafted because of who my uncle was, and that kind of bothered me.   


I’m very close with my uncle and we always talk a lot about expectations for me and you have to be your own person.  I don’t wear “21” not because I have no relationship with my uncle; it’s just that I want to be who I am.  I don’t want to be Paul O’Neill. 

BYB:  I just have one more question for you because I know you have a game to get ready for.  Is there anything you want our readers/followers to know about you- Michael O’Neill – that maybe they haven’t heard before – or just anything to tell them more about you? 

Michael O’Neill:  Um….I don’t know….I’m not that interesting.   I went to the University of Michigan.  They were the best two years of my life.  I loved college and I miss college, but I also love playing for the Yankees; definitely a dream come true.   I came to play in the big leagues, and hopefully someday if I get to the big leagues, I’ll probably wear “21” to honor my uncle.  If I get there I think it would be a pretty cool honor to wear his number in the Bronx.

BYB:  Do you think after baseball you’ll finish up at Michigan? 

Michael O’Neill:  I’m actually going back to school this offseason and I’m going to try to get my degree as quick as I can.

BYB:  Michael, on behalf of BYB I thank you for your time and good luck to you in the future.  It was truly a pleasure speaking with you. 

Michael O’Neill definitely wants to make a name for himself while honoring his uncle’s legacy with the Yankees.  As I found with Ian Clarkin – a member of the RiverDogs when I interviewed him – O’Neill’s desire to put in the work it takes to achieve his dreams is exactly why I expect to one day see him in the Bronx. 

Too often we Yankees fans hear how our minor league system is lagging, yet when it comes right down to it, players like Michael O’Neill clearly show that our organization has a promising future ahead of it.

Only the seasons that lie ahead of us will determine whether or not Monument Park may one day hold two O’Neills, but I think Michael is certainly going in the right direction toward that dream.


    

--Steve Skinner, BYB Senior Writer
Twitter: @oswegos1


 
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Monday, September 1, 2014

YANKEES PICK UP RHP CHAZ ROE



In a late summer move, the Yankees announced today that they have made a cash deal for a right handed pitcher.  Management signed 27-year-old minor-leaguer Chaz Roe from the Miami Marlins. It might not be a big deal but it is something.  Roe spent all of this season in Triple-A New Orleans going 3-3 with a 3.66 ERA and picking up 14 saves in 47 relief appearances.



Something key to note is that Roe spent part of 2013 with the Arizona Diamondbacks and we have had luck signing former D'back pitchers in Brandon McCarthy.  This could be a key move but not the move we truly needed from the Marlins.  We need the big bat and future potential of Marlin slugger Giancarlo Stanton, who much like former Chicago Cub now Oakland Athletic Jeff Samardzija, has had it with management and lack of resources for making a real run for the pennant.



"We've definitely done better than anyone thought we would do," Stanton said. "At the same time, we're still not where we need to be to keep playing beyond the designed schedule. …I want to be the only game on TV at the end of the day," stated Stanton in an interview with Yahoo Sports last week.



According to USA Sports, "While Stanton’s words should hardly echo like his thunderous homers, they will inevitably revive trade talk that has surrounded the slugger since he Tweeted his frustration with the Marlins’ fire sale after the 2012 season. And though fans of every other in the Majors will now, understandably, clamor for their clubs to acquire Stanton for some lousy package of undesirable prospects and well-seasoned scrubs, it still makes very little sense for the Marlins to trade Stanton this offseason if they have any real interest in winning."



So we pick up a mediocre pitcher, but in reality, the bigger picture is we need some big bats, which we could have in someone like Stanton.

 --Suzie Pinstripe, BYB Senior Staff WriteTwitter: @suzieprof
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"WIN SOME, LOSE SOME" KINDA SEASON


One of my favorite movies, and don't jump on my for saying it, is My Cousin Vinny for one reason only:  It makes me laugh.  The one-liners find themselves in conversations across the New York/New Jersey area in particular and Joe Pesci's 3-piece burgundy suit made the list of "The 10 greatest men's movie fashion moments" in The Guardian's column this week. "Anyone who doesn't take pleasure in seeing Joe Pesci in a burgundy velvet three-piece suit is a person who possesses neither soul nor eyes," states the article.


So what does this mean for the Yankees?  It is pretty simple.  As I review the endless blog posts, tweets, newspaper headlines and Facebook rants regarding the 2014 Yankees' season, it boils down to one quote from the 1992 iconic movie- "Win some, lose some."  Yes, that's what the judge said to New Yorker lawyer Vinny as he scurried out of the court room following his winning moment in the last scene of the movie.  And that is our season folks.


As we scurry out of August into September and the final days of the 2014 season, it is clear that Yankees' time is up.  As my colleagues write posts like YANKEE MANAGEMENT IS THE NEW DEFINITION OF INSANITY  & CRAPTACULAR, I am left with no choice but to concur and add the Win Some-Lose Some quote.  Am I upset? No.  Am I surprised? Sort of.  Am I giving up? Hard to say.  I have been with the Yankees, as have all of you, for a long time.  I don't give up, but I do look forward.  It's like a nagging injury to your leg, or a headache that won't go away- you know it is there but you move ahead.  I guess that's where I am- I am in the move ahead mode.  Move ahead to September, move ahead to the off season, move ahead to spring training, move ahead to a new hitting coach, pitching coach, general management... new protocol, new team, new life.


The New York Football Giants have 23 new players on their 53 man roster this year.  The University of Notre Dame unveiled its brand new turf field at its season opener this weekend.  And the New York Yankees had better do something to rival these two traditional teams' new additions in the off season if they are going to contend next year.  The Win Some-Lose Some kinda season for 2014 is just about in the books- now it's time to create a plan for the Win Some-Win Some season for 2015.



--Suzie Pinstripe, BYB Senior Staff Writer
Twitter: @suzieprof


 

 
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IS BASEBALL IN DECLINE?


This is the question posed by Ben McGrath in The New Yorker this week. McGrath takes the case of Angels’ center fielder Mike Trout—arguably one of the best players in the league right now—and wonders why he is not a household name. In fact, McGrath argues, there don’t seem to be a lot of baseball heroes that stand out in the contemporary pantheon of sports.


I’ve written in an earlier post on the legacy of Bud Selig that baseball is facing some generational challenges. It’s popularity amongst young kids is on par with soccer and it’s no longer an Olympic sport. Even slow pitch leagues are seeing a decline in participation. Derek Jeter, who is considered royalty of the game, is retiring after this year.

To be sure, attendance numbers and player salaries signal that everything in baseball is humming along quite well. But I agree with McGrath that baseball does seem to be having a decline in popularity amongst the younger generation. I feel this is partly due to kids’ waning attention spans and the speed of the game. Even though efforts have been made to make games faster, they have actually gotten slower. 


The addition of instant replay, which I think was borne of good intentions, has not helped to further the game along. In a recent game between the Dodgers and Diamondbacks, two replay calls added to what seemed an interminable fourth inning.  I also feel the decline of interest in the sport amongst younger fans is due in part part to the 1994 players’ strike and the steroid era. Growing up in the 90s, it was hard to escape criticism of a sport that was condemned for greed and dishonesty. Who would want to watch after hearing that repeatedly for a decade?

Baseball as a brand has a lot of work to do and new commissioner Rob Manfred is going to have to address these issues. Just look at the lengths the NFL is going to recruit new fans—the league is coming up with school curriculum based on fantasy league participation for elementary kids—no doubt hoping to foster the next generation of fans (and potentially mold future bookies).


I do see promise in the latest Little League World Series. The play of phenom Mo’Ne Davis drew stellar ratings for ESPN and the triumph of the champion Jackie Robinson West All-Stars out of Chicago exhibit that baseball is once again thriving amongst inner city youth.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the health of the sport in the comments. Do you agree that baseball is declining in popularity and what things can be done to attract new fans?



--Alexis Garcia, BYB's "Eye on MLB" Columnist
Twitter:  @heylexyg



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Sunday, August 31, 2014

BLAME THE YANKEE OFFENSE, NOT BRANDON MCCARTHY!


For months we've been talking about how the Yankee offense can't score runs.  It's been a problem all season and it's more and more annoying every game as we head into September. Today was a perfect example again, except this time, the headline on MLB.com wasn't about the Yankees NOT scoring, but instead about how Brandon McCarthy blew it.  The headline? It's: McCarthy surrenders lead as Yanks drop finale.


I mean sure, he surrendered the lead, but the bigger story is that the Yankees continually DON'T score or didn't fight back today. The Yankees scored one run in the 1st, one in the 4th and one in the 5th. They left 8 men on base today.  They were 1-8 with runners in scoring position, but sure, blame Brandon McCarthy, one of the most solid fill-in pitchers we've had all season.  McCarthy has been terrific and with a lack of run support, no pitcher can truly succeed. McCarthy included. It's embarrassing.


You know, it's funny... BYB wrote a very popular piece today titled: YANKEE MANAGEMENT IS THE NEW DEFINITION OF INSANITY. Shortly after it was released, there was a comment on Facebook that I was very confused with:

Now, I have no beef toward Angelo. He's just totally wrong.  The bottom line is the Yankee injuries and replacement pitching hasn't been the issue all year. 

(In Photo: Chris Capuano)
In fact, the replacements have been amazing and continually keep us in the game, surprising us EVERY game. It's the offense that's the problem. Today was a perfect example of that.  Sure, try and blame McCarthy for not being able to "hang on", but this is just a sample size of how the offense has worked all year.  They build a lead or score some runs early only the fizzle.  Today was no different. Don't blame the Yankee pitching for our problems. Blame the offense.

The 3 Yankee runs went like this:


Brett Gardner hit a solo shot in the 1st inning. It was his 16th.  In the 4th, Francisco Cervelli singled and knocked in Martin Prado. Then in the 5th, Gardy tripled and when there was a throwing error, he was able to score.  But then, there was chaos and Yankee fizzle all wrapped up into 1, and it was that chaos that deflated the Yankees...

As the Star Ledger reports: "The Yankees lost their grip on a lead against the Toronto Blue Jays Sunday in the seventh inning in one sudden, hard-luck sequence: a pitch that narrowly missed the strike zone, a base hit barely beyond the reach of Martin Prado’s out-stretched glove and a tag at the plate just fractionally late.


 Said Francisco Cervelli, the Yankees catcher whose desperate lunge toward Steve Tolleson almost -- but didn’t -- negate the go-ahead run in a 4-3 loss, 'Everything happened so fast.'"

It happened so fast? Really? It's actually been a slow burn this entire season.  Sure, Cervelli's bringing up today's loss, but all season there has been disappointment, and Yankee fans are fed up.

Look, this is supposed to be a recap, but for the past few recaps, it's turned into more of a rant about how horrible my Yankee team is. I apologize, but I need to be straight with you. The reason why BYB started in the first place is because the Yankees were sucking, and ironically, on the heels of Bleeding Yankee Blue's 4th anniversary, we've come full circle. They suck again, and they're started to fade away.

Again... will I give up on my Yankees? Truth be told, I will never give up on the pinstripes.  I am however being realistic... it's over this season.  I'm pretty sure of it.

Final: Blue Jays 4 - Yankees 3

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YANKEE MANAGEMENT IS THE NEW DEFINITION OF INSANITY


This season has frustrated me to no end. I wanted Derek Jeter to retire with one last ring. I wanted to look at the standings of the AL East and see the Yankees on top. The formula just hasn't come together and you know what....I want action! We are Yankee fans. We do not accept failure....and when things fall apart SOMEONE must take the fall.


I think about the fundamentals of being a manager. I don't care if you are a manager of a restaurant or a major league baseball team, if you don't execute you have to answer to the higher powers that be. If you don't perform, someone else will take your place. It should be no different here. The Yankees are an underachieving baseball team. Point period. The writing is on the wall and unless the Yankees turn it around. If we miss post season action for the second year in a row, heads need to roll.

What do I mean, exactly?

If this season is over in September....clean house. Sounds harsh, but maybe this is what the organization needs. We have the talent here, but the execution is lacking. I don't care how experienced a player is they will all have their slumps and to help improve a player, you need a great coach. Instead, the Yankees just seem to try the same thing and cross their fingers.


We have a problem with what I like to call "Insanity overload." What is insanity, exactly? I like Albert Einstein's definition in this case:

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."


I think it describes the state of the Yankees perfectly. We just seem to repeat, cross our fingers and just hope and pray for different results. The Bronx Bombers have a problem with offense. Our team is filled with veteran players. Sure, they know how to hit and you can tell me that the players should be the only person held accountable for not performing but as players they need to make adjustments too. They need to adapt. A manager is supposed to help make that happen. If it was only up to the player then we wouldn't need to employ Kevin Long.


I respect Kevin Long, but we have been saying for awhile now that he is on thin ice, read IS KEVIN LONG ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK?. At what point, does Yankee brass need to realize that the managing piece is not identifying the problem and fixing it? There is a pattern here, and it is not a good one.


Larry Rothschild is not without his own fault. For me, there are just so many red flags here and I have been searching for something that gives me a boost of confidence in this guy. I mean, to me he just looks lost and doesn't know how to really develop people anymore. I'm not the only one either, Mike O'Hara had his own opinion on this in HEY LARRY ROTHSCHILD...YOU GOTTA GO! When I look at the state of the pitching rotation this year I scratch my head and just wonder WHY we still have this guy here. We lost 3/5 of our rotation this year. To me, that says something.


Granted, I am not blaming him for CC Sabathia's knee injury or Michael Pineda and the pine tar however, I think as a pitching coach he should be able to identify mechanical issues that can help prevent the injuries AND make our starters more durable in games. That has not happened and the bullpen has been overused all year. I look at these examples and I am not surprised that he has been tied in the news with the idea of a six man rotation, read that HERE. It's not a new idea for baseball but is this really a solution to the problem? We have an overachieving rotation right now as it is and pitchers are a creature of habit. So is giving the ball to Pineda every 6 days instead of 5 is going to make him more effective? I don't buy it.


And what about the relievers? They already work extra hard when our starters can't go deep into games. So does a 6 man rotation give them a better chance to rest if they starters or rested? Or does it simply mean they have to clean up a mess for more of the starters? Another thing that I read today just made me even more critical at this point. Dellin Betances has been a superstar for us this year. He was under the spotlight even when he was in the minor leagues and we were grooming him as a starter. So when I read THIS article and see so much talk about using two pitches, I can't help but be a little confused here. This kid was a starter, so he had more of an arsenal. Is Rothschild not digging deeper here? Maybe I am making too much of this, but I hate when there is untapped potential and we send the wrong message.


This isn't personal, it is just business but our managers here have to take some of the heat here. BYB's posts about them are a broken record. I do not believe that Joe Girardi is the problem here....yet. If the Yankees miss the post season again it will be hard to ignore that the management played a big role in this. The roster was revamped this year. The players can't be the scapegoat here. It's time to stop the insanity! But to do that, the Yankee brass need to bring in managers with some new ideas because these guys.....just have not cut it!




 --Jeana Bellezza, BYB Senior Writer and Editor
Twitter: @NyPrincessJ


 
 

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

CRAPTACULAR!


We've tried to be positive here at Bleeding Yankee Blue when it comes to my struggling New York Yankees, but there is a growing concern, and it's been out there all season.  This team, despite the hoop jumping and their will to "just hang on", is just not enough to get them to the playoffs and beyond.  That's it!

It was very sobering reading a friend's tweet about the Yankees, before today's game. Frank wrote:
Think about that for a second. The odds are stacked against this club in a huge number.  That's because no matter what the Yankees offer in games, be it great pitching or hitting... they CANNOT SCORE RUNS. That's terrible and that will be the collapse of the Yankees this season.  If you don't score, you can't win... bottom line.


Blame the major league hitters that cannot knock in runs on fundamental sac fly balls or blame the hitting coach, Kevin Long for overstaying his welcome and not breaking old routines. 


Long in my opinion, is no longer welcome in my book. This team's stale. It's clear there is just the same routines and nothing to shake this club. he won't butt in, but he should, because it's his job... but he doesn't.  The Yankee hitters are the same boring bunch they have been all season.  Yuk!

Today the Yankees had 1 hit in 9 innings.  It was an major embarrassment.  We played the Blue Jays... hardly a powerhouse, and once again, the Yankees pitching did a great job of holding the Jays to only 2 runs. Two runs... enough for even the Bad News Bears to chip away at. But not the mighty New York Yankees who are far from mighty.  One hit... Zero runs.  Kill me now, they suck.


Michael Pineda went 6 innings, gave up 7 hits and 2 runs.  On the flip side, the offense struck out 12 times against Blue Jays pitching and  left 5 on base. 


Mark Teixeira had the only hit... a double. But no one could knock him home. The End.

Do I still have hope? Not really.  Fans like winners, and despite the Yankees being in my blood since 1978, losers disgust me.  Harsh? Maybe... but here's the reality; do you want to limp into the playoffs on a second wild card and no confidence? OR... would you rather dominate and look like a powerhouse going into the playoffs, momentum rolling, confidence high.  I'll tell you what I want... and I know you feel the same. You want winners, not limpers.


Yes, the Yankees can do it... but here's my predictable prediction... they won't, because they're a sad bunch. And let's face it... this sad bunch doesn't deserve to be there. 

Final: Blue Jays 2 - Yankees 0

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