Tag: yankees

Mets And Yankees Preparing For Winter Meetings and Their Needs

One week from tomorrow the baseball world will convene in San Diego for the annual Winter Meetings. The agenda at these meetings have become more business dealings for Major League Baseball and the trade market has shown minimal activity.

Regardless, the process to restructure for teams begins at these meetings as general managers and executives huddle in their suites. Rumors do become a spectacle as this has also become a media event.

So don’t expect anything significant to transpire with the exception of rule changes for the game and other business issues. There will be a transaction or two, and the stepping stones to more significant trades or free agent signings taking place when the meetings conclude.

Giancarlo Stanton #27 file photo Neil Miller/The New York Extra

The Yankees will be looking for additions to their bullpen and possibly seeking a player or two. GM Brian Cashman always comes out of these meetings with a missing piece, Giancarlo Stanton in 2017, though that signing has not paid dividends.

file photo Neil Miller/The New York Extra

Didi Gregorius, depending on what route he goes, well that obviously causes Cashman to go hunting for infield help.  Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Zack Wheeler? Cashman may be in pursuit of one of the prime pitchers on the free agent market.

Again, all speculation as to where this goes.

The Mets, they need to be active. Carlos Beltran, a first year manager, inherits a team that won 86 games this past season. They are close to going that extra step and need those pieces to make it happen.

As expected, Wheeler is on the market. The Mets are not ruling out his return to keep a rotation in tact with Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marucs Stroman and Steven Matz. 

No surprise here as a high ranking NL official said  to yours truly, “Teams with a strong and deep starting pitching staff will ultimately win. We see this with the Dodgers, Nationals, Astros, Cardinals, Braves, and Indians.”

The Mets won with a rotation in 2015, not so long ago.  That included a forgotten Matt Harvey and 27 strikeouts in the postseason, which by the way, is a top five club record.

 Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen, should expect Wheeler to be elsewhere and that causes a void. Either Robert Gsellman or Seth Lugo come out of the bullpen and fill the rotation spot. Or the Mets shop for a lower level free agent on the market.

But the bullpen needs a total revamp. Taking Lugo or Gsellman out of the pen causes another void. There is confidence Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia will turn things around. Justin Wilson, except for a limited time on the injured list, overall was proficient as the lefthander out of the pen.

Jeurys Familia #27 file photo Nil Miller/The New York Extra

So there will be decisions and some shopping for help out of the pen.  Take into consideration a Mets bullpen blew over 20 saves in 2019, and in the late innings.  Win those games, perhaps, that was the difference as to why the Mets were not one the NL wild card teams.

New York Mets left fielder Yoenis Cespedes #52 file photo Neil Miller/The New York Extra

And there is that possibility, from all reports, Yoenis Cespedes will be seen again. The Mets are looking to get him back on the field and be in that outfield mix that is minus Juan Lagares. 

Van Wagenen, has not ruled out a trade for an outfielder. Michael Conforto and  inconsistency has been an issue in the lineup. The Mets are rumored to be interested in signing a free agent, Starling Marte, and that could be something to keep an eye on in San Diego.

And then there is the business of baseball. The Mets seem to go along those lines in their process of decision making as they move towards 2020.

That same NL official said, “We see that clubs are resistant to signing older free agent players to long term contracts. Teams are cognizant of the declining value of that older player who then becomes an albatross in the latter stages of a majority of those contracts.

The Yankees have seen this and basically have gone away from signing players long term, the exception was that trade for Stanton in a financial deal with the Marlins.

But the Mets, a team that is criticized for not signing the free agent, they have been burned in the past. Yoenis Cespedes, though a boost in 2015, re-signed and that lucrative deal has not been to their advantage with a player that is prone to injuries.

So the Mets will be the active team in San Diego, maybe not a headline player or two, but stepping stones to get where they want to be in October.

Stay tuned for the next few weeks before the holidays kick in. It all starts in San Diego a week from Sunday for the Mets, Yankees, and 28 other teams who look to improve.

Comment: Ring786@aol.com  Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso

All Alonso Needs to do is Keep Playing Like a Rookie

08/27/19 Chicago Cubs vs New York Mets at Citifield Queens ny Mets #20 Pete Alonso hits his 42 home run of the year breaking a Mets record and putting the Mets ahead 1-0 in the 4th inning Neil Miller/The New York Extra

Robbins Nest

By Lenn Robbins

Now that Pete Alonso has accomplished almost everything a rookie can hope for, here’s our hope.

Peter Morgan Alonso, please don’t change.

Don’t make it habit but if you happen to get your jersey torn off after a post-game heroic, do the interview shirtless.

Continue to honor the victims, heroes and families of 9/11.

07/26/19 Pittsburgh Pirates vs New York Mets at Citifield Queens NY #20 Pete Alonso at ceremony with Tunnels to Towers and Wounded Warriors Neil Miller/The New York Extra

Keep crushing home runs.

And for as long as humanly possible, play baseball like a 12-year-old at Williamsburg, full of joy and passion.

Of course, for the next couple of weeks, take the National League Rookie of the Year Plaque on a Stanley Cup-like run. You can’t plant flowers in it or drink beer out of it but you can hoist a lot of cold ones in Tampa or New York or any else place there’s a Mets  fan.

We’ll set over/under at 53, the record number of home runs Alonso slugged this year. That didn’t break just any record, it broke the record for home runs by a rookie previously held by a Yankee – Aaron Judge.

Trust us. This is huge for Mets fans that spends almost eternal second fiddle to the Yankees.

In addition to crushing those 53 home runs, Alonso drove in 120 runs while hitting. 260. The Polar Bear, all 6-3, 245 pounds even stole a base.

What was stolen from Alonso was winning the award in unanimous fashion, which clearly was on his mind Monday night at the award’s announcement. He wore a black hat inscribed with “100 %.”

 Alonso received 29 of 30 first-place votes. One voter opted for Atlanta rookie pitcher Mike Soroka received the one other first place vote.

If Alonso needs motivation next season, he could look there. Just as he could have used the fact that he barely made the big club coming out of spring training. Surely he was thrilled to make the team and maybe there was some extra mojo.

But this is what makes Alonso such a New York treasure. He doesn’t need a chip on his shoulder because he has laughter in his heart. He loves the game. He knows how few make this dream come true.

Hopefully, Alonso will never forget that. He’ll continue to embrace the big, warm, cuddly Polar Bear persona, player version of Mr. Met. He’ll get just as big a thrill out of a walk-off walk, that led to the bare-chested celebration, as he gets from a walk off homer.

He’ll be that kid that dreamed of one day winning NL Rookie of the Year. And then he did it.

Beltran Will Have to Learn to Drive Fast

04/06/16 Houston Astros vs N.Y.Yankees at Yankee Stadium Bronx N.YNew York Yankees right fielder Carlos Beltran #36 at batting practice today File photo Neil Miller / The/New York Extra

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely – John Dalberg-Acton.

Robbins Nest

By Lenn Robbins

 The Mets have hired a manager that has never managed before.

Carlos Beltran isn’t the first to make this jump. Aaron Boone has been pretty darn impressive since taking over the Yankees. Yes, Boone inherited a team replete with talent, resources and culture, but there is a long list of coaches/managers that have failed in similar scenarios.

09/19/15 N.Y.Yankees vs N.Y.Mets at Citifield Queens N.Y. New York Yankees lead 3-0 after 2 innings New York Yankees right fielder Carlos Beltran #36 hits a 3 run homer in the 1st innning File photo Neil Miller/The New York Extra

Beltran’s Mets should have a solid corps of talent but we don’t know what resources the Wilpons are willing to invest in this team. And the culture of the Mets has been one of dysfunction.

10/04/16 New York Mets wild card work out day jeff wilpon at work out today File photo Neil Miller / The New York Extra
File Photo Neil Miller /The New York Extra

 Enter Brodie Van Wagenen who the Mets hired last season as GM despite the fact that he had no front office experience. The results have been mixed.

Van Wagenen made several aggressive moves (some think too aggressive) acquiring Robinson Cano, Edwin Diaz and Marcus Stroman. The Mets were in the playoff race until the final two weeks of the season and it was electric.

02/04/19 truck sendoff day at citifield for the NY Mets, queens ny File photo Neil Miller/The New York Extra Mets gn brodie van wagoner talks to fans at the truck send off today at citifield

 Van Wagenen seems to have been granted tremendous power by the Wilpons. The question is, is it unchecked power? Is it the limitless power the Mets will be paying for if Van Wagenen’s ‘Forward Charge!” approach doesn’t work?  

Some of the most notorious military leaders in history have led their troops to disaster. George Custer, who graduated at the bottom of his class from West Point, led the 7th Calvary to disaster in the Battle of Little Bighorn. James Brudenell, the earl of Cardigan, lost everything but his sweater when he ordered the charge of the light brigade.

The GM with no previous management experience has hired a manager with no managing experience.

Risky? Sure.

Exciting? Yep.

Beltran only wanted to coach the Mets, and, according to published reports, did not interview for any other openings.

As is the case with Boone, Beltran, who retired in 2017, should relate to the players.

File photo Neil Miller /The New York Extra

There were eight managerial openings after last season. Six have been filled. Beltran is the only minority. MLB needs to look at that because fair or unfair (read, unfair) Beltran might face extra scrutiny and certainly more attention. If he succeeds it bolsters the case for more minorities to be hired.

Beltran is walking into a unique scenario. For the first time since 2016, the Mets will enter a season with legit expectations to make the playoffs.

Van Wagenen has shown his desire to floor the accelerator, which means Beltran first ride will be in the fast lane.

This makes the Mets, with slugger Pete Alonzo and a terrific rotation, a must-watch.

08/05/19 Miami Marlins vs New York Mets at citifield queens ny #20 pete alonso celebrates on a go ahead homer in the 7th innning Neil Miller/The New York Extra

Start your engines Mets fans. The Mets might be the most intriguing story in baseball next season.

Did the Yankees Lose the ALCS at the Trade Deadline?

Robbins Nest

10/17/17 Houston Astros vs New York Yankees at Yankee stadium bronx ny ALCS Game #4 photos by Neil Miller/The New York Extra New York Yankees Brian Cashman Gen Manager

By Lenn Robbins

As you drown your sorrows in whatever libation you prefer at Sunday brunch or during Sunday Night Football, no doubt there will be lively discussion and debate as to how and why the Yankees lost this ALCS to the Astros, 4-2, especially after winning Game 1 in Houston.

Was it in the top of the 11th inning of Game 2 when Gary Sanchez, owner of one of the most retched postseason performances in Yankees history, struck out looking with runners on first and second?

Or was in Game 3 when the Yankees had runners in scoring position in four of the first five innings and couldn’t get that one key hit off a less-than-dominating Gerritt Cole?

Or perhaps it was Game 5 when the Yankees had bases loaded in the fifth inning after knocking out starter Zack Greinke. But Houston’s Pressly struck out Edwin Encarnacion.

One can even make a case that it was Saturday night’s, 6-4, season-ending heartbreak of a loss in which Jose Altuve’s two-run walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth trumped DJ LeMahieu’s two-run, game tying homer in the top of the frame.

The Yankees got what they wanted, or at least what their strength should have been – a bullpen game – words that make the fingers cramp, but that’s a discussion for another day.  

08/15/19 Cleveland Indians vs New York Yankees at yankee stadium bronx ny #17 aaron boone takes #57 chad green out of the game after giving up 5 runs in the 1st innning

Every game the Yankees lost in the series was winnable, a testament to the depth and resilience of this 2019 team. Despite Sanchez’s batting slump and suspect fielding, Adam Ottavino’s October struggles, Giancarlo Stanton’s battered body and Aroldis Chapman’s hanging slider, the Yankees could have beaten a healthier and more balanced Houston Astros team.

As to why the Yankees didn’t win takes us back to July 31st when the trade line came and went and the Yankees had done nothing to improve their starting rotation. The belief that Luis Severino would return after a season on the injured list and suddenly bolster the rotation in October was at best ridiculously optimistic, at worst, folly.

Only GM Brian Cashman knows exactly what potential deals were on the table. He decided that the asking price for any of the starters that were available was too high. He’s earned that right. Anyone that signed LeMahieu as a free agent and assembled this kind of quality depth has certainly earned that right.

But in a city that judges whether a season is a success or failure in championships or bust, the season busted with Saturday night’s loss.

“No matter how many games we won in the regular season, this is a failure,” Aaron Judge told reporters after the crushing end the season. “I think about the season as a whole, guys getting injured, guys getting back, a lot of ups and downs, I think about missed opportunities and some guys I might not play with again …”

Cashman and Co. need to think about upgrading the starting pitcher. Houston’s Cole, 29, who would have pitched today had there been a Game 7, leads the list of free agent pitchers but the cost will be stunningly high.

Steven Strasburg, 31, will be available if he opts out of a deal that will pay him $100 million over the next four seasons. Zack Wheeler, 30, is on the market but the Mets should be ashamed if they let him cross from Queens to the Bronx.

It’s easy to sit back and suggest how much money a team should dole out but this is the Yankees after all. They have more automaker sponsors than some teams have sponsors.

If the Yankees don’t want to feel the devastation they experienced this October next October, the pitching has to be better. Just look at the starting pitching of the two teams that will play for the world series – Houston and Washington.

Next round’s on me.

Big Maple’s Biggest Performance Lifts Yanks

Robbins Nest

By Lenn Robbins

Credit twitter

   The Yankees are on a plane back to Houston because on the biggest stage, pitching in the biggest game of the season, The Big Maple came up with the biggest performance of his career.

  James Paxton, went pitch for pitch with the Astros Justin Verlander, a strong candidate to win his second Cy Young, and did exactly what the Yankees were hoping for when they acquired the him from the Mariners in November of 2018.

“He’s got to go out and pitch well and set the tone for us,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters. “Because we want to get on that plane to Houston now, and that starts with Pax.”

You can just hear the flight attendant say, “Please bring your seat backs forward and place your service trays in the upright and locked position,” after Paxton held the Astros to just one run over six innings. He struck out nine, walked four and threw 112 pitches.

Verlander also was good. He struck out nine, didn’t walk a batter and threw 105 pitches. But two of those pitches the Yankees cracked for home runs.

 After DJ LeMahieu tied the score at 1-1 in the bottom of the first, Aaron Hicks gave the Yankees the big hit they’ve been missing in this ALCS, which the Astros now lead 3-2

 Hicks crushed a three-run homer that ricocheted off the right field foul pole in the bottom of the first. Yankee Stadium exploded. Neither team could produce another run, as the Yanks won, 4-1.

  Paxton had a very solid season. He didn’t lose a game in August and September and finished the regular season with a 15-6 record and a 3.82 ERA. But his first two postseason starts were underwhelming and the Yankees, facing an elimination game with Verlander looking to slam the door, got Paxton’s performance of the season. 

“When you think of the Yankees, you think of the postseason,” Paxton told reporters. “They pride themselves on winning and that’s what we do here. I knew that I’d probably get an opportunity of pitching the postseason, and that’s what I wanted to do.

“That’s what I wanted to do when I came here, and that’s what we’re doing now. It’s been a great experience and I want to keep on going.”

The Yankees keep their season going because The Big Maple came up big.

Cole Makes Game 3 a Yanks’ Nightmare Come True

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – OCTOBER 15: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Houston Astros celebrates retiring the side during the sixth inning against the New York Yankees in game three of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium on October 15, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Robbins Nest

By Lenn Robbins

The worst nightmare became a reality Tuesday night for the Yankees. The kind of nightmare that when you awaken, it feels real. Because it was real.

Painfully real.

The Yankees, for the second straight game, faced a dominating Houston starter and they were shut down like the ‘L’ Train on weekends. Gerritt Cole held the Bombers scoreless for seven innings, allowing just four hits in a 4-1 win in Game 3 of the ALCS in Yankee Stadium.

The Astros lead the series 2-1 which doesn’t seem daunting until you consider this:

The team that wins Game 3 in a series tied 1-1, has a 77.1-percent chance of closing it out, according to SABR.org.

The Yankees seem to have no clue – not many teams do – of knowing how to solve Justin Verlander and Cole. Cole, 29, is unbeaten in 25 starts dating back to his last loss on May 22.  He’s 3-0 this postseason with an 0.40 ERA.

Whereas the Yankees hope to get 4-6 innings of solid starting pitching and then turn to the bullpen, one of the deepest in baseball, the Astros count on their starters to go 6-7 innings.

Verlander went six and two-thirds in Sunday night’s Game 2 victory, allowing two earned runs while striking out seven. Yankees starter James Paxton lasted just two and one-third innings.

Luis Severino, the Yankees starter Tuesday night, gave up a 420-foot home run to Jose Altuve, the second batter of the game. He lasted four and one-third innings allowing two home runs and yielding three walks.

“I don’t need to go out there and strike out 300 guys or win 20 games,’’ Severino told reporters earlier in the week. “I just need to go out there and match his stuff.”

He didn’t do that, which isn’t an indictment of the man considering he missed most of the season with shoulder and lat injuries.

The Yankees (and Astros) haven’t announced their starters for Wednesday night’s Game 4. Heavy rains are expected hours before, during and after Wednesday night’s 8:08 p.m. first pitch.

If the Nationals close out their NLCS against the Cardinals, we might see a paradigm shift in pitching philosophy. Teams have become bullpen-heavy.

Washington and Houston boast robust rotations and that has proven to be the more successful approach this postseason. The Yankees might have more time to think about that than they had hoped.

By winning Game 3 the Astros have guaranteed themselves of returning to Houston for Games 6 and 7 if necessary. Verlander and Cole could each make another start.

The nightmare has become reality.

Yankees lead Twins 8-1 after 5 innings by Neil Miller/The New York Extra

#18 Did Gregorius hits a grand slam in the 3rd innning

The Yankees are leading game#2 of the ALDS on a big 3rd innning of 7 runs scored, capped by a Grand Slam by #18 Didi Gregorius

#18 Didi Gregorius hits a grand slam in the 3rd inning/Neil Miller / The New York Extra
#21 Tyler Duffey hangs his head after #18 Didi Gregorius hits a grand slam in the 3rd innning

Twins Turn to Former Uber Driver to Save the Season

Robbins Nest

#25=6 D.J. Le Mathieu hits a solo homer in Game #1 of the ALDS Neil Miller ? The New York Extra

By Lenn Robbins

The Yankees are an acquired taste – kind of like rooting for the lions in ancient Rome, or the bulls in Pamplona or the top one-percent to make more money.

They do not throttle the opponent with dominating pitching. They don’t play small ball (although they did pull off a double steal Friday night).

The Yankees feel you out for a few rounds, uh innings, and just when the legs get a little wobbly, they unleash a barrage of fury that turns the Stadium into the only insane asylum one needs a ticket to enter.

Yankee fans pund the right field wall in excitement in Game #1 of the ALDS

Such was the case in Game 1 of the ALDS. The Yankees, who hit 306 home runs this season, faced the Twins, who hit 307 homers. Two plodding heavyweights trying to set up the big inning.

The Yankees did it twice, putting up a three spot in the third and another in the seventh as they all but KO’d the Twins in a 10-4 win that went the distant, distance, four hours and 15 minutes.

“We had a lot of opportunities to score with a lot of guys on base,” D.J. LeMahieu told reporters. “We did a really good job against their pitchers. I feel like every one of their pitchers that came in pretty much had tough innings against us, hard-fought innings.”

Yankees #26 D.J, Le Matiey hits a 3 rbi double in Game#1 of the ALDS

In other words, the Yankees pummeled the Twins physically, and more important, emotionally. The Twins entered this series under pinstripe spell.

The Yankees have ended the Twins’ World Series dreams in 2003, 04, 09, ’10 and ’17. If ever Minnesota needed a win in the opening game of a series, it was Friday night against the Yankees.

“The first one is always the biggest game,” Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge told reporters.

Perhaps. The Yankees have a way of making every game big, bad and bruising. Friday night’s affair lasted a brutal four hours and 15 minutes. Commentator John Smoltz said in the bottom of the 5th that it felt like the 8th or 9th inning.

This is not how baseball has to be played today. The Astros, behind the remarkable Justin Verlander, needed a mere three hours and 25 minutes to snuff the Rays, 6-2.

The Nationals put in less time, beating the playoff-cursed Clayton Kershaw, 4-2, in three hours and 17 minutes. And the Braves barely broke a sweat in being the Cardinals, 3-0, in two hours and 46 minutes.

But this is how the Yankees play. They believe in their bullpen and they force the opponent to believe in theirs. The Yankees and Twins combined to use 11 relievers.

The Twins figure to need a lot of relief in Game 2. Randy Dobnak, 24, the former Uber driver who got married last Saturday, faces Masahiro Tanaka. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli tabbed Dobnak because he has a 52.9 percent ground ball rate which would be impressive if he had pitched more than 28.1 innings.

“It’s been the most amazing week of my life for sure,” Dobnak told reporters. “Getting married, now the postseason start. It doesn’t get any better than this.”

We’ll see about that. Dobnak may not be entering the Coliseum chased by bulls but he might feel that way after about four hours and 25 minutes.

What if the Mets and Yankees Get it Right?

07/24/19 San Diego Padres vs New York Mets at citifield queens ny #36 Mickey callaway talks to the press before the game Neil Miller / The New York Extra

Robbins Nest

By Lenn Robbins

Let this be the last October for a long time that we don’t find ourselves in this New York baseball Groundhog Dog.

Like the movie, we’ve lived this scenario over and over again. But whereas Bill Murray finally gets it right and wins Andie MacDowell’s heart, the Mets and Yankees almost never get it right at the same time.

So here we are, the Yankees about to begin their pursuit of a 28th World Series. The Mets about to hire their sixth manager in the last 16 seasons after firing Mickey Callaway on Thursday.

This is the most important decision of Brodie Van Wagenen’s young GM career. He traded the future for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz. Then he doubled down and acquired Marcus Stroman at the trade deadline.

file photo Robinson Cano Neil Miller/ The New York Extra

The Mets weren’t an afterthought in September for the first time since 2016. They should be a legitimate postseason contender in 2020 but that window isn’t likely to remain open for long with the depleted farm system.

Van Wagenen needs a manager that has a win-now mentality and a New York-tough resiliency.

In his last comments before getting fired, Callaway had an interesting spin on managing, especially in this town.

“I make unpopular decisions every day, whether it’s unpopular to you guys or the players.’’ Callaway told reporters. “And every decision I make is going to be unpopular to somebody. But I make decisions based on trying to win games and trying to keep these guys motivated to win as many games as they possibly can.”

What separates the great managers from the good ones is that they can sell those unpopular decisions. They have a track record that affords them the benefit of the doubt. They have a confidence that is not cocky but fierce.

The Mets need that kind of manager to lead the way.

Which brings us to the Yankees. When Brian Cashman chose Aaron Boone, it was a bold decision that could have backfired. Boone is the poster boy for a young manager. He can relate to players while balancing analytics and feel.

10/17/17 Houston Astros vs New York Yankees at Yankee stadium bronx ny ALCS Game #4 photos by The New York Extra New York Yankees Brian Cashman Gen Manager
file photo Aaron Boone neil Miller /The New York Extra

One can’t overstate the job Cashman and Boone did this season. The injuries came like a plague and still the Yankees won 103 games and the AL East. Cashman never uttered the words, “Come and Get Us.” Or maybe he did by buying a formidable bullpen and stockpiling depth.

It seems unfair to base the success of this season on whether or not the Yankees win it all. There are other teams in the AL with just as much power and better starting pitching. That’s the contract one signs when donning pinstripes – titles or bust.

Maybe the Yankees will overcome that suspect starting pitching and you should know your way to Canyon of Heroes. And maybe Van Wagenen will get it right and the Mets will be playing in October next season. Maybe, just maybe, a subway series is in our future.