Sunday, February 18, 2018


With every year Bleeding Yankee Blue is on this planet, we meet new and exciting people.  I've spoken fondly of the journalists that I grew up reading that I am now friends with.  Pete Caldera being one of them.  I've chatted with Yankees present and past and we as a unit here at BYB have met some amazing readers and fans as well.  It's been an incredible journey.

Recently I reached out to Yankees Beat writer Bryan Hoch.  We admire him here at BYB. We follow each other on Twitter, and... as nutty as it sounds... we read each other's stuff.  Yup, a Yankees Beat writer reads BYB.  Who would have thunk it... but it's true.  Bryan Hoch, a well established sports writer has an open mind, and while he rubs elbows with Yankees every day, even he enjoys the pages of BYB.  How flattering.

Hoch has a new book which will be released the beginning of March.  But he was nice enough to give us some time here at BYB and answer some of our questions.  We are happy to share  our interview with Hoch, and promote his upcoming book, The Baby Bombers.  Be sure to check it out. I loved this chat and I hope you do too.

BYB: You have been the guy that Yankee fans and baseball fans alike will come to when there's important news about our Bombers. How did you score the gig as Yankees beat writer for in 2007, and is it everything you hoped it would be?

Bryan Hoch: Thank you very much! It has been a dream job. Long story short, I always loved baseball and writing, and was able to merge them into a career. I was freelancing for in the mid-2000s, covering the Mets, Yankees and the road teams that came into New York. While covering the 2006 Winter Meetings, I heard that the Yankees beat was about to have an opening – Mark Feinsand, who is now back with as my teammate, was leaving for a newspaper gig. I made sure that everyone knew that I would be extremely interested in taking that spot. They called me just after Christmas with an offer, and this is true: I accepted before even asking what the position would pay!

(Oct. 7, 2017 - Source: Mike Stobe/Getty Images North America)
BYB: You've seen the Yankees as a much older than they are today. What was the feeling in that clubhouse this season with guys like Judge, Sanchez, Clint Frazier and Luis Severino? What's the energy like?

Bryan Hoch: It was a fun group to be around, and I think that showed on the field. What you saw in the dugout with the thumbs-down and the Toe-Night Show stuff was the same kind of vibe we were seeing in the clubhouse. It's the Yankees, so there was a certain responsible atmosphere that still needed to be in place, but there was a much more youthful vibe. They laugh with each other and they pull for each other. Winning breeds that atmosphere, but so does the fact that many of them came through the system together. It was one of the more positive teams I've experienced.

Photo: SNY
BYB: I see a lot of similarities between Derek Jeter and Greg Bird with the way Bird speaks to the press. Who do you find to be the easiest to talk to in the clubhouse and the most accessible in the new Yankee clubhouse? How about when the Core Four was there... and why?

Bryan Hoch: Hmm. A few weeks before Joe Girardi said it in that press conference, I remember listening to Aaron Judge and thinking, "Wow, he's Jeter."

Not in physical stature or on the field, of course, but in terms of that cadence and thoughtful nature. Jeter played his entire career in New York without embarrassing himself and I won't be surprised if Judge does too. It's hard to pick just one for easiest, so I'll mention Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia since they've been around the longest. As far as the Core Four, I'll tell you a quick story. Sometime around 2012, the Yankees are in Kansas City and Mariano Rivera calls me over to his locker. Someone had told Mo that I had been dating the same girl for four years and didn't seem particularly close to popping the question.

Photo: New York Daily News
For 10 to 15 minutes, Mariano counseled me one-on-one about the importance of marriage and settling down. I've never forgotten that chat. And yes, we did eventually get married … we have a beautiful 1 ½ year old daughter (and another baby on the way this summer!).

BYB: Did you ever meet George Steinbrenner? If so, tell the BYB audience about the man.

Photo: New York Daily News
Bryan Hoch: Yes, but only briefly. By the time I came on the beat in 2007, Steinbrenner was already letting the young elephants into the tent, so I've dealt much more with his children – Hal, Hank, Jennifer and Jessica. They take a lot of pride in running the Yankees as a family business. I marvel at the stories that the newspaper writers from the 1970s and 1980s can tell about The Boss in his prime, and I can't imagine the stress those guys were under. It was an era without cell phones, so you'd leave a message for Steinbrenner first thing in the morning and then wait by that phone all day. You never knew what Steinbrenner was going to say, but if he called back, you'd better not miss it. That was your back page, and sometimes the front!

Photo: Newsday
BYB: This Spring Training is gearing up to be a bit of a circus with Giancarlo Stanton coming to the Yanks. You have the inside scoop about a lot of thing when it comes to Yankee rumors. If I would have told you last year that the Yanks would be getting Stanton, would you have believed me? 

Bryan Hoch: Nope. I'm not sure I would have believed you if you told me that a week before the trade. I didn't expect him to play for the Marlins in 2018, but for all the world, it looked like he was going to the Cardinals or the Giants. There was a point in time when even Brian Cashman thought that it wasn't going to happen. I wrote an offseason preview where I listed Stanton to the Yankees as a long-shot blockbuster deal that could happen, but no, I didn't expect to be covering that press conference in December. And let's all remember – Jim Leyritz broke the news on Twitter!

BYB: OK, I know you gotta work with all these baseball insiders, and I know you read BYB a lot and know how much I hate the term 'baseball insider". Tell me, who's one of your favorite insiders.

Bryan Hoch: Just one? People should understand the long hours those guys put in. If you ever get a chance, walk through the lobby at the GM Meetings or the Winter Meetings, those events where all 30 teams are in the same hotel. I guarantee that if you go through there at 2 a.m., the national guys like Ken Rosenthal, Jon Heyman, Tom Verducci and Joel Sherman are working the room, hammering away on their cell phones, breaking news. Sometimes I wonder if they sleep at all.

BYB: When you look at Yankee players these days, have you ever seen a guy like Judge in your lifetime watching this game? If so, who?

Bryan Hoch: In a Yankees uniform? I guess Dave Winfield would be the closest comparison, because he was a multi-sport athlete who played right field, but I think Judge's power already exceeds that – and I don't think Winfield would disagree. Around the majors, Stanton is the obvious choice. On the day Judge was drafted, he mentioned that Stanton was someone he modeled his game after. It's going to be a lot of fun to see them hit in the same lineup.

BYB: Growing up, was sports writing always a passion? Tell us about your journey.

Bryan Hoch: Absolutely. As I mentioned earlier, I loved baseball from a very young age, and also had interest in journalism. I can remember working up a newspaper for my fourth-grade class, not because anyone asked me to, but because I wanted to see if I could. Along those lines, in 1996 I launched what you'd today know as a fan blog. It was a Web site devoted to my favorite team at the time, the Mets, and it gained a fairly large following. Remember, this is the Wild West dial-up days of the Web; there wasn't even a until 1999. That helped me get an internship with the Mets in 2000, right out of high school. Once I walked behind the scenes at a big league ballpark, I never wanted that door to close.

BYB: What's more fun, cover the Mets or Yanks? And why

Bryan Hoch: The great thing about New York baseball is that people care about both teams, and you know that your stories are going to be read. I made some great memories at Shea Stadium; I ran on the field as a photographer after they clinched the pennant in 2000, was there for Mike Piazza's homer after 9/11, the Game 7 vs. the Cardinals in 2006 (happiest, and saddest, I ever saw that ballpark), rubbed shoulders with Hall of Famers and legends. That said, I always thought there was something special about being in the press box at the old Yankee Stadium. Here's a story. My seat was next to the exit, so when there were two outs in the ninth inning, Bob Sheppard would stand right next to me – book in hand, ready to dash to the elevator. If the batter got on and the game continued, he'd sigh and walk back to the booth. "Catcher, Ken-ji Joh-ji-ma." Then Sheppard would be next to me again. Once that final out went on the board, I'd hear the opening bars of "New York, New York," then look to my right. He'd be gone.

BYB: What's the best quality about a pitcher like Sonny Gray?

Bryan Hoch: I guess I'd say that he's a battle-tested innings-eater who has shown flashes of brilliance. There was a lot of talk that the Yankees had picked up an ace; that wasn't exactly true. He was the A's ace, and he was pitching like one right before the trade, but most would agree that Gray is a solid No. 2 starter or a very good No. 3. Either way, his contract situation made that a smart move for Brian Cashman. Gray wasn't picked up just for 2017, but for '18 and '19 too.

BYB: The Yankees acquired QB Russell Wilson from the Rangers. It seemed to come out of nowhere? What’s your take on this move? Be honest.

Bryan Hoch: It should be a fun distraction for Spring Training. To me, it's no different than when the Yankees have had Nick Saban or Jason Garrett talk to teams in the spring. Wilson has played on the biggest stages in sports, and I'm sure there are valuable experiences in preparation or training that he can share. My understanding is that Wilson will be in uniform during games and workouts, but they aren't promising him much (if any) playing time. If he gets a few ninth-inning at-bats or plays an inning in the field, I don't see the harm. I mean, 60-year-old Billy Crystal got an at-bat once. The franchise survived.

BYB: Looking at the 2009 season, it was a team where everything clicked. After seeing our season last year... what can you tell our audience about this upcoming season? What do you see as the Yankees strengths and weaknesses in 2018?

Bryan Hoch: I think there's a very good chance that we look back at the '17 Yankees as the weakest roster of the next five years or so, which is saying something. They're going to score a ton of runs as long as they can keep Judge, Stanton, Sanchez, Bird, Gregorius and Gardner reasonably healthy, and I won't be surprised if Torres and Andujar play a big role. The starting pitching has plenty of question marks, but that's not uncommon, and the bullpen is elite again. How often are they going to be asking guys to go seven or eight innings with that 'pen? I'd expect a lot of home runs, some quick hooks and a heavy workload for the relief crew.

BYB: OK. Free plug about your new book, The Baby Bombers. Why will people want to read your book?

Bryan Hoch: Thank you. I hope they will! The concept was pitched to me shortly after the Home Run Derby as a Judge biography, but over the next few weeks, I realized there was a deeper story to tell. The best way to describe "The Baby Bombers" is that it traces how the Derek Jeter Yankees successfully transitioned into the Aaron Judge Yankees, with many details that have not been reported previously. Who were the Yankees after the 'Core Four?' And how does a large-market team respond after years of missing the playoffs with an aging, expensive roster? To answer those questions and more, I spoke to many people both inside and outside the organization -- players, front-office executives, scouts, coaches, former players and other personnel. It also digs into the current roster. We go back to college with Judge, high school with Bird, the academies of the Dominican with Sanchez and Severino. Whether you're a casual Yankees fan or you watch every game, I wanted this to bring readers behind the scenes into the clubhouse and the front office to see how a Major League Baseball team operates in today's game. More than anything, I believe readers should come away with an understanding of how special this group could be.

BYB: Finally, so you read Bleeding Yankee Blue? What do you think?

Bryan Hoch: I do! I try to read everything out there as much as possible, and I've found that fan blogs like BYB are a great window into what Yankees fans are thinking at any given time. I love the passion and authenticity. You can tell that these are the die-hards whose evening revolves around nine innings, 162 games a year. As someone who landed on the Web in similar fashion, writing about something I loved without the expectation of making a dime, I completely understand and respect that dedication!

I want to thank Hoch for being a stand up guy and taking the time out of his incredibly busy schedule to answer some questions for the BYB audience.  Hope you all will check out Bryan's new book, The Baby Bombers, out officially March 6th, but you can pre-order on Amazon now.  CLICK HERE.

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