Sunday, February 26, 2017

YANKEE PROSPECT WATCH: CLINT FRAZIER

Photo: Getty Images
Coming in at number 24 overall, and number two for the Yankees according to MLB.com, OF Clint Frazier is an exciting player, and personality, that we should be seeing in the Bronx possibly as early as this summer. Clint is ready for some baseball and shared that on twitter a few days ago!
Acquired in the Andrew Miller trade from the Indians at the trade deadline, Frazier brings his fiery red hair and incredible bat speed and raw power with him to the Yankees organization. After playing the majority of his professional career in centerfield, Frazier was utilized in the corners mostly in 2016 where he strong arm and above average speed play well.

Photo: MiLB.com
Frazier began 2016 in Double-A Akron while with the Indians where he slashed .276/.356/.469 with 13 home runs and 48 RBI over 89 games before being promoted to Triple-A shortly before being traded to the Yankees.

Photo: MiLB.com
In Triple-A, Frazier admittedly pressed and said he tried to do too much, especially after ending up in Scranton where he was trying to impress his new club. In Scranton he slashed just .228/.278/.396 with three home runs and seven RBI. In 2017 he will look to rebound from his rough couple of months to end last season.

The number five overall pick in 2013, Frazier, a Georgia native, has toned down his overly aggressive approach at the plate, but is a high strikeout guy, partly due to him still developing his recognition of breaking pitches. The 22 year-old still has time to develop and has the upside of hitting for a solid average and already possesses the raw power to be a 30 home run guy.

Photo: MiLB.com
Not only is Frazier is pleasure to watch on the field and is an incredibly hard worker off the field, as far as I’m concerned, he has a New York kind of personality. His outgoing personality and his humorous presence on Twitter, #RedThunder as he has called himself, has the flashy style and personality to be a fan favorite and bring some excitement to the Yankees.

Coming into this spring, Frazier has just 30 Triple-A games under his belt so expect him to become more seasoned down in Scranton this summer. Although many factors will come into play, it is not unreasonable to think he finds himself in Pinstripes by August or September.

Photo: Times Leader
Thinking of the future of the Yankees with Aaron Judge and Clint Frazier (and possibly Bryce Harper, who Frazier seems to be recruiting) patrolling the outfield in the Bronx is something we can all get excited about!


Spring training games are upon us and before we know it it’ll be Opening Day.

Last up in our top 20 Yankees prospect is someone we are all familiar with, the number overall prospect in baseball, Gleyber Torres. This farm system is top notch and credit must be given to Brian Cashman for strengthening the system.

The future looks bright and we will look at the consensus brightest star next on #BYB Yankee Prospect Watch!



--Dan Lucia

BYB 'Series' Writer
Follow me on Twitter: @DManLucia





http://travissample.com/










Saturday, February 25, 2017

SPRING STORYLINE 4: SABATHIA'S JOURNEY

Source: Mike Stobe/Getty Images North America

CC Sabathia enters his final year of his contract with the New York Yankees this spring.  There are more questions surrounding his performance in 2017 than any other Yankee.  As YES reported at the beginning of spring training, "After a tumultuous offseason and inconsistent spring campaign in 2016, veteran lefty CC Sabathia became one of the most reliable and effective starters for the Yankees all season long. He made 30 starts and posted a 3.91 ERA, and would have collected far more than the nine decisions he earned had his run support been more substantial."  Could CC replicate or even outdo this performance in 2017?

Source: Rich Gagnon/Getty Images North America

Many naysayers out there have their minds on the next guy in and are just waiting around for Sabathia to make his last pitch in what many are saying is his final season of baseball.  There is good reason as to why baseball experts and fans alike think CC may have to pack it in after 2017.  His knee, his "fastball" and his health may all get the better of the veteran lefty.  But you wouldn't know any of this if you saw the glean in his eye and the passion in his voice following workouts this week.

 Source: Rich Schultz/Getty Images North America

"I realize this is a business, man — whatever happens happens," is what Sabathia was saying Wednesday morning. There’s no defiance in his voice, no hint of a Take-That or I’ll-Show-You vibe. The left-hander just disagrees with the unspoken belief that it’ll soon be time to move on," reported The Record this week.  No doubt he had some rough spots and dark days in 2015, but his teammates think very highly of the veteran who appears to be giving it his all this spring.

Source: Rich Schultz/Getty Images North America

“It shows you what kind of athlete CC is, how smart he is,” said Dellin Betances. “Me? I don’t know if I could pitch at 88-90 mph like he does. It’s pretty amazing if you think about it.”  But at the end of the day it comes down to Sabathia's ability to reinvent himself as he began to do in 2016, knowing that his velocity was not his hallmark anymore.

Source: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images North America

"For pitchers with elite fastballs, velocity becomes your identity, the radar gun is your friend. Sabathia used to be one of those monsters. Now he’s replaced brute force with a soft, subtle touch and isn’t ashamed of the transformation. The question is whether the Yankees value Sabathia’s maturity enough to consider keeping him around," reported The Record.

 Source: Larry Busacca/Getty Images North America

I am rooting for Sabathia, as I always have.  He's battled.  He's braved tough days.  He's carried us. He's dropped us.  This year I need him to just stay consistent and mentor the young guys.  Those few actions would be worth their weight in gold as the Yankees pursue #28.



--Suzie Pinstripe
BYB Managing Editor
Twitter: @suzieprof





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THE WARRIOR'S CODE

Photo: Linda Cataffo/New York Daily News
We all have favorite ballplayers.  Athletes, for whatever reason, just hold a special place in our hearts.  Maybe they were good enough to sign an autograph for you at the Stadium, or take a picture with you on a chance meeting at a restaurant.  Perhaps your Mom or Dad cheered for this particular player and you followed suit.  To you, this guy was like a part of your family.  But it may be just the way the guy played the game.  It was the way he/she respected the game, played it with passion and gave all he/she had every time they step between the lines.

As a Yankee fan there are literally a bevy of names to chose as my favorite all-time player.  I grew up with the Yankees as a big part of my life.  They were my heroes, and now some are friends.  However through it all there is one name that stands above the rest...and that in no small feat when you wear "The Pinstripes".

(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Paul O'Neill came to the Bronx and truly help redefine the culture in the Yankee Universe.  He played the way a Marine takes a beachhead.  It was ALL about the team winning for number 21.  Sure we share an Irish heritage.  Yes, a quick fuse is also something we both carry in our tool kit.  But Paulie's attack is not only the best way to play the game of Baseball, it is also the best way to play the game of life.  O'Neill truly made the Yankees who they were in the Dynasty years. 


Jeter, Mo, Andy, Jorgie and the rest were HUGE parts of the machine, but Paul was the rev of the engine.  He set the example.  Paul was THE WARRIOR.  I don't think I could've coined it better than the Boss did in 1997. 

Photo: AP
I think one story sums up the "why" Paul O'Neill is forever my Yankee Hero.  When I was living in LA I read a small piece in the Times on the fiery, Irish Yankee slugger.  Here is the nuts and bolts of the story....


An ancestor of O'Neill's was in a land dispute in Old Ireland with a rival family.  There was a small island just off the coast of the Emerald Isle.  O'Neill and his rival decided to row a race to the island.  The one to reach land first would claim it for his family.  And so they rowed.  As the race drew to a close O'Neill saw that he would be beaten.  Rather than take it on the chin, the passionate competitor drew his sword, cut off his hand and threw it to shore.  He would touch land before his rival.


Crazy right?  Well, to an O'Neill it was about winning.  That's the way Paulie played baseball.  That's is the heart of a warrior.  That's the Warrior's Code.

** My buddies The Dropkick Murphys may be closely associated with our greatest rival, but their song about Micky Ward always makes me think of Paul O'Neill and his Warrior Code...that an Baba O'Riley of course.**








 
  
--Mike O'Hara
BYB Contributor
Follow me on Twitter: @mikeyoh21





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Friday, February 24, 2017

WORKING OUT THE KINKS IN FLORIDA


The first game for the Yankees this Spring and it was really fun to watch!

The Yanks played the Phillies today and it was just great to see the kids mingling with the vets and what they can do. Not without the Spring blues of course.  The Yankees won 9-4 with Bryan Mitchell getting the win in this meaningless game. 


Gleyber Torres and Ji-Man Choi both committed errors. Frazier, Judge, Fowler and Sanchez struck out... among others.  No biggie. In fact, none of this is terribly important. This is when you start to work things out anyway.

The pitching by the Yankees was pretty decent.  The offense was wonderful.

Aaron Judge struck out the first time at the plate. The second time he smacked one that hit the scoreboard. It was a monster shot.  Wonderful to see that home run.

Photo: USA Today
Miguel Andujar and Dustin Fowler both tripled.  That was great as well.

Look, I'm not going into some in depth analysis about any of this only to tell you that seeing these kids play was pretty great. The veterans had their moments good and bad as well.  That's the game.

In the end, it was a nice win on a gorgeous day, and great to see everyone.

Final: Yankees 9 - Phillies 4

I can't wait for more...




BIRD IS DEFINITELY THE WORD

Photo: Charles Wenzelberg
With the retirement of Mark Teixeira, it was assumed that Greg Bird would be the starting first baseman entering the 2017 season. However, with the emergence of Tyler Austin and signing of Chris Carter, there has been a lot of question and speculation as to who will be the First Baseman.

Much of which has been written about here on BYB and every paper in New York.  Now Austin is out for a bit with a fractured foot, but what happens when he returns? Where will he go? And Chris Carter? Think about it... is this guy the veteran who splits time with Bird at first? Will Carter embrace the DH role officially? Sure, much speculation is out there, but our stance at BYB is simple... we want the kids to play.  Bird is exciting and many are hoping that his 2015 season continues in 2017.

The Daily News wrote this, and I gotta tell ya, I love Greg's attitude as he heads into Tampa for Spring Training. Check this out:  

(Andrew Savulich/New York Daily News)
"Greg Bird doesn’t feel like he’s fighting with Chris Carter for the starting job at first base.

'I’m fighting to prove that I’m healthy and can play,' Bird said Monday. 'I’m just trying to play at a high level again, get better every day and become the best possible player that I can be.'”

Bird's attitude has been great all year.  We just wrote about it a few weeks ago in SAYING ALL THE RIGHT THINGS.  This is a great kid!

After missing the entire 2016 season because of shoulder surgery, Greg was sent to the Arizona Fall League where he would exclusively DH. You could tell there was some rust was there but, how could you expect there not to be after missing a full season. He would finish the Fall League going 14/65 for a .215 BA.

(Feb. 20, 2017 - Source: Elsa/Getty Images North America)
To be honest, I don't believe there is much to worry about here, though. Greg was sent to the Fall League to shake that rust off. I don't believe he was 100% during it. With Tyler Austin now on the shelf for 6 weeks, I really don't see anybody else at first base come April 2nd. Chris Carter has a big bat, if he connects, but is inferior to Bird in the field.

It's my honest opinion that first base is Greg Bird's to lose barring another injury. Best wishes to Greg and the rest of our boys as Spring Training gets underway.

First Spring Training game today on YES! Get ready to root!



--Michael Carnesi
BYB Writer

Twitter: @sevn4evr










THE CLOCK IS TICKING ON TIMELESS BALLGAMES


Let us all bow our heads for a moment in silent tribute to the latest casualty in baseball's absurd war against the timeless tradition of a timepiece-free sport --  the four-pitch intentional walk.

As has been widely reported, with 923 IBBs last season in 2,430 games, this rule change would have sliced an average of 1.5 pitches -- or about 35 seconds--  per game league wide.

Photo: Getty Images
That's one more small step for Commish Rob Manfred and his merry band of shorter-game-is-good scammers; one giant leap toward a game full of crazy shortcuts and nonsensical omissions leading to the end of the sport as we know it without a clock. 

Think that's unlikely?

You may have heard a new clock has been speeding up the time between the last out of each inning and the first batter in the box for the next one. Perhaps you noticed there's often already a ball and strike count on the hitter when MLB telecasts return from their commercial breaks? Or maybe you didn't notice because you're still in the bathroom; taking your usual length of time to do your business, but thought you just don't have the same velocity you used to when you finished and the game was already back.


You probably already know warm up pitches for starters and relievers have been drastically limited, and that visits to the mound by catchers and managers -- often used to allow a pitcher with a tired or sore arm to give it a brief respite  -- have been severely curtailed. 

And yet the mystery of all those shoulder and elbow injuries continues to confound this mastermind Commish who proposes putting a runner on second base in the tenth inning to shorten games; not grasping the fact that doing so for each team does virtually nothing to increase  the chances of a shorter game but greatly enhances the chances of a bunting festival -- a scenario sure to attract swarms of formerly disinterested potential fans to ballparks.


A pitch clock is already in use in the minors. Does anybody believe that isn't intended to be a shakedown ahead of an appearance in major league ballparks?  

Photo: Getty Images
Basically, they've shaved every second they can off the game and yet last season games were longer than they've ever been, much to Manfred's dismay. But rather than accept all these silly moves have made no impact and rescind them, he presses onward and downward with this latest move to eliminate the intentional walk -- and deny us forever the unexpected splendor of moments like this one from El Kraken last season. 







To us, it was a crucial insurance run, and a fun one at that. To our commissioner, it was a waste of time and boring baseball nobody wants to see. 

Is he even a fan of the game? Or does he have another agenda entirely? 

After reading the following by Bob Nightengale in USAToday this week, I'm seriously beginning to doubt the former and believing the latter. 


"Manfred, citing research, was alarmed that baseball had more inactivity during games than at any other time in history. Home runs were up 32% since 1980, and strikeouts increased by 67%. The emergence of powerful bullpens also limited the number of late lead changes. 'I'm firmly convinced that our fans want us to respond to and manage the change that’s going on in the game,' Manfred said. 'I’m certain our job as stewards of the game is to be responsive to fans, and I reject the notion that we can educate fans to embrace the game as it’s currently been played.' "

More home runs equal more inactivity to Manfred....and HE'S ALARMED ABOUT THEM.

Read that sentence again. MORE HOME RUNS EQUAL MORE  INACTIVITY TO MANFRED....and he's alarmed about them.


He's also alarmed by more strikeouts. 

So he doesn't like home run hitters doing well (I guess putting a clock on their home run trots can't be far off)  and he doesn't like pitchers doing well, which we already gathered from the clocks and other restrictions on them. 

So what the heck does this guy like about baseball anyway -- except, of course, that he thinks it's better if it ends quicker? 

I sure don't see it.

Photo: Sports Illustrated
Further along in Nightengale's piece, Manfred brandishes the sword of secret fan polling (as usual)  to justify his lunacy.  "We know based on fundamental research what our fans think about the game,” Manfred said. “It’s in the players’ interest, it’s in our interest, to be responsible to what fans think about the game.”

I find it telling he uses the term fundamental research to justify all this weirdness because fundamental or basic research is intended merely to fill in gaps in knowledge about  phenomena, and specifically about things that aren't directly applicable or useful. Applied research is research that seeks to answer a question in the real world and to solve a problem. Either Manfred's misspoke there or he's advocating substantive changes based on polling and demographic data that's by definition is woefully incomplete and may actually backfire in a big way. 


I'd love to see this fan research he constantly refers to because I've never seen a single poll where any demographic of the population that DOESN'T watch baseball says they WOULD consider becoming fans if the games were any shorter. And I've never personally met a soul who disliked the game that answered  length of the game when I asked them why. Not one. And believe me, I've met  plenty over the years and always asked. There's lots of reasons not to like baseball because it's a thinking person's game, and goodness knows, it's not hard to find very nice people with the attention spans and intellects of gnats who are repelled by it. And there are certainly no shortage of sports and games that appeal to them. But not even a 10-minute one-inning ballgame starting with the bases loaded for each team would suck them in. 

Ross Atkins: Toronto Blue Jays General Manager
The fact is when you like something it goes by too quickly no matter how long it actually is, and when you don't it can't end fast enough. And when  bizarre illogical changes  get  pushed hard by the highest executive in the game, it prompts  otherwise reasonable people like  Toronto's GM to suggest almost equally bizarre alternatives like lopping two innings off the length of games or our own  Yankees skipper to suggest radio headsets for certain players, because in their minds those options are reasonable by comparison. That's scary stuff.


I truly believe this whole push to shorten games started by  Selig and now carried on by his hand-picked stooge Manfred is just a smoke screen to appease the networks who are pissed there's no easy way to stop baseball games in the middle of play with bogus official timeouts so they can sell more commercials like they can with other clock-driven sports. So the networks just want the "baseball show" to end sooner so they can move on to the rest of their programming schedule that runs in 30 minute and 60 minute blocks of which 65% can be sold as commercial time (about the same percentage as the other sports). 

Truth be told, if they were really concerned  about attendance and viewership, they'd simply  lower prices for game tickets, concession food and MLB.TV subscriptions and aggressively market the added value. But as Nightengale points out in his piece, things are just hunky dory so there's no need.  Owners are making bigger profits than ever before. Even the smallest market franchises can afford to lock up their young stars to long-term mega deals and sign big-time free agents now. Players are earning more than ever before. More tickets are being sol than ever before and more people are seeing games on TV and their computers than ever before. There's no falling interest in baseball. There's no "there" there. The networks can't cram more commerical time into their telecasts without hurting other more lucrative commercial programming so all they can do is make it more cost-effective by getting it on and getting it off within as predictable a time period as possible.   Only the laziest old sportswriters, laziest old umps  and  most casual fans who don't really follow the sport to begin with seem to think the games need to be dramatically shortened. 



And Rob Manfred.

Baseball. Doesn't. Need. Clocks.

Take your base, commissioner. And take your illogical justifications and fuzzy research with you. 



 --Barry Millman
BYB Writer
Twitter: @nyyankeefanfore
  







Thursday, February 23, 2017

HERE'S LAUGHING AT YOU, MANFRED!

Bring it on!

Photo: AP
That's essentially what Tyler Clippard and other representatives from the Players Association are saying to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. As MLB searches for new ways to speed up the game, some players are making it clear that they won't be forced to follow any rules....period! This could be the start of a very LONG cat fight.

Photo: Getty Images
It all started on Tuesday when news of a small but buzz worthy change was announced for this season: Intentional walks will now be communication to hitters with a signal from the opposing dugout instead of having the pitcher throw four obvious balls. OK, whatever. Considering that only 932 intentional walks occurred last season in 2,428 games for 2016 I fail to see how this makes the game faster. In fact, according to MLB statistics it doesn't but we will just let Manfred have his fun with that one.

Where Manfred has more resistance is the proposal for a "pitch clock" and Clippard isn't on board with that. "If there's a pitch clock and you take more than 20 seconds, what, they're going to call a ball? Fans don't want to come to a game and see that. You going to stand out there for a minute and a half and walk a guy without throwing a pitch? How can that be good for the game?"

And I agree with him. A hot hitting team helps sell tickets, hot dogs and beer for the happy fans in the seats. Who wants to go to a game and watch a guy walk the bases? We want to see the home runs and situational hitting! Baseball is about the strategy and exciting plays, not the casual strolls to first base.

(Sept. 23, 2016 - Source: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images North America)
So Clippard's response is rebellion."If enough players are against the ruling, we would be more inclined to just ignore it. You would see a lot of weird stuff happening" read more HERE. That may not work well and help get the point across but you have to admire his passion for his sport. There is always room for improvement but maybe he should consult with other players or managers instead of interfering with the strategy or integrity of the game. 

I think Joe Girardi has a good idea to consider HERE. If Manfred really wants to speed up games investing in a communication system is a good start. It would be so easy to install earpieces and microphones on players rather than making multiple trips to the mound by the manager or catcher and would cut down on the number of times a hitter steps out of the batters box for the latest signs. Girardi is right, signs take time. Save the long strategic trips! That has more impact then a dumb new intentional walk rule.


There is always room for improvement and a new idea never hurts. It looks like Manfred may be getting some of his ideas that were implemented during the 2014 Arizona Fall League and 2015 Double-A and Triple-A seasons. Data HERE shows that there were minimal improvements with the speed of the game but is saving 10-15 minutes worth changing "America's Favorite Pastime" into some strange hybrid version? Does saving 15 minutes on a game really change your enthusiasm about the game? The game has evolved over time, but not based on a bunch of "nonsensical" imposed rules as Clippard said. As long as it may seem sometimes I like to watch nine innings of good strategic baseball it's more exciting to watch then the Home Run Derby.

Changes are coming. Now that the union has essentially "balked" at his proposals Manfred is threatening to enforce changes unilaterally next year. There is a provision in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that allows the commissioner to forcibly impose new rules after notifying the union a year in advance. This never before exercised option would allow Manfred to "modernize" the game but also create hostility with the players and possibly fans. Manfred is ready to throw around his iron fist and could send formal notice this week which would put his new rules into effect for the 2018 season.

Photo: Wendell Cruz-USATSI
Maybe I'm a baseball traditionalist or it's just my New York attitude but unilateral actions get my blood flowing like Clippard. If Manfred is looking for a fight Clippard's reaction proves that he has found it. Baseball should not be a political stage, and sadly right now it feels like one. What is best for the game should come from a collaboration between both sides and not a political standoff.....and flexing executive muscle is not the way to do it.

I see a lot of drama coming in the months ahead. Let's hope this shakes out differently then the current state of our country otherwise I may need a drink or five. 



--Jeana Bellezza
BYB Managing Editor
Follow me on Twitter: @NYPrincessJ





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