Spring training begins next week. NEXT WEEK! The offseason is long as it is, and it’s made even longer when the postseason ends on a pennant-winning, walk-off home run. But baseball is almost here, even if it’s not real, meaningful baseball.
To follow the format of Off Day Dreaming from the actual season, I decided to do a weekly Yankees thoughts blog to lead us into the season until the first Off Day Dreaming the day after Opening Day.
Here are 10 thoughts on the Yankees as usual.
1. Because I’m a nice person, I’m going to give Giancarlo Stanton a clean slate for the 2020 season. No sarcasm to start the season, no snarky comments, no “Ladies and gentlemen” tweets on Opening Day. I’m going to be positive when it comes to Stanton for as long as he lets me be positive.
The Yankees were able to win 103 regular-season games and get to within two wins of the World Series without him, so he’s almost become a luxury at this point. I don’t want to say whatever Stanton gives the Yankees is a bonus the way it is for someone like Brett Gardner, but the Yankees proved he’s not crucial to their success the way Aaron Judge is.
Even though I will try to maintain a clean slate for Stanton, he has unforunately entered A-Rod territory at the Stadium in which the cleanliness of his slate is only as good as his most recent at-bat. Once you reach that territory, there’s no going back. Stanton could have the kind of postseason A-Rod did in 2009, and it won’t matter. He just needs to realize it, and somehow “clear the mechanism” like Billy Chapel when he’s playing at home and not let the inevitable boos affect him the way they clearly have in his first two seasons as a Yankee.
2. Nolan Arenado is still on the Rockies, which means he hasn’t been traded yet, which means the Yankees can still trade for him. Rockies owner Dick Manfort tried to downplay the rift between Arenado and general manager Jeff Bridich, but the rift is real and it exists. If it weren’t, Arenado wouldn’t have said the things he said this offseason about the Rockies and rumors wouldn’t be flying around about him potentially going to the Cardinals.
Here’s what I said last week in If the Yankees Can Get Nolan Arenado, Go Get Him: When a player like Arenado is made available, you don’t let him go somewhere else. And when a player like Arenado is made available and you’re the odds-on favorite to win the World Series in the middle of a championship window in the middle of a championship drought, you make sure he doesn’t go anywhere else.
I understand it’s most likely not going to happen, but it should happen. Arenado will essentially only cost money, which incase you forgot because the Yankees sometimes forget, is the organization’s greatest resource. Any player or prospect the Yankees would have to add would either be blocked for playing time by the trade, no longer part of the team’s plans anyway, far enough away from the majors to know if they will actually reach the majors or possibly Deivi Garcia. But you don’t let Deivi Garcia prevent you from getting Nolan Arenado. (Then again, Brian Cashman let Eduardo Nunez prevent him from getting Cliff Lee.)
3. The pictures on social media of Gary Sanchez over the last few weeks have shown a leaner, more fit and muscular Sanchez. Without seeing his face, you would never know it’s Sanchez. I’m not sure if Sanchez started eating vegetables, went the Joe Torre route of cutting out soda or just hit the weights harder, but it’s clear he had a goal of coming to spring training with a different look, and he has it. Is this new diet or workout regimen an attempt to stay off the injured list or prevent passed balls or possibly create even more power? I have no idea, but Sanchez is currently the favorite to win the most “(Player name) came to camp in the best shape of his life” headlines over the next two weeks.
4. I was watching MLB Network on Monday and there was a discussion on the top shortstops in baseball. Gleyber Torres was ranked sixth. Most likely this list was created with the idea of creating buzz and making Yankees fans (which there are more of than any other team) upset enough to talk about or write about, kind of like what I’m doing here. I may be writing about it, but I’m not upset about it. I find it more comical than anything. At least it’s not as egregious as ESPN ranking the Yankees as having the ninth-best offense in the majors.
5. The Yankees’ No. 4 starter is Masahiro Tanaka. The first pitcher in history to allow two earned runs or less in each of his first seven postseason starts is the Yankees’ No. 4 starter.
6. The Yankees had to bring J.A. Happ back last season based on his 2018 with the team after the trade deadline and because they decided to not sign any other free-agent starter. But after last season and with no one knowing what the state of the baseball will be for this season, I’m holding out for Happ to get traded before spring training. I understand you can never have enough pitching, except when you’re talking about a 37-year-old coming off the worst season of his career and set to earn $17 million. As long as Happ is on the team, he’s going to start. It will take a long, long time for him to removed from the rotation, the way it always takes the Yankees a long, long time to make a move like that, and if he’s not starting and not doing well as a starter he has no place on the team. Pitching twice a month out of the bullpen in mop-up duty while taking home nearly $3 million a month isn’t ideal.
7. Curtis Granderson retired from baseball the other day and if you told me on the day the Yankees traded for Granderson that he wouldn’t win a World Series, I would have gladly taken that bet. The Yankees had just won the World Series when they traded for him and were essentially returning the same exact roster the following season. But as a Yankee, Granderson experienced two ALCS losses and a five-game ALDS loss, as the Yankees were eliminated twice in those series by his former team. Granderson played for a long time, played for a lot of good teams and made a lot of money, but he should have a won a ring, and he should have won it with the Yankees. If not for the aforementioned keeping of Nunez for Lee, he would have won at least one.
8. Not only do the Yankees have the best team in baseball and not only are they the favorite to win the World Series, but at the same time as the Yankees’ core is entering it’s prime, the Red Sox are holding an Everything Must Go! sale and will likely move the team’s best player before spring training begins. Not only are the big-market and rich-beyond-anyone’s-wildest-dreams Red Sox adamant about trading Mookie Betts so they don’t have to pay, they also don’t have a manager and have yet to receive the results of the commissioner’s investigation into their sign stealing under their former manager. 2020 is going to be great.
9. The Yankees rarely ever get off to a good start. It seems like every season they are around .500 a few weeks into the season before going on a run, and this isn’t a recent trend, it’s been going on for years. Last season, the Yankees opened against the Orioles and lost two of three, then went on to lose two of three to the Tigers, got swept by the Astros and lost two of three to the White Sox and were 10-10 through 20 games. The year before, they were 9-9 through 18 games. Let’s not do that again this season.
It would be good for both the Yankees and my overall health if they took advantage of their early-season schedule this year. The Yankees open the season with three games in Baltimore followed by three in Tampa Bay and then open at home with three against Toronto and four against Baltimore. You can’t ask for a better schedule to start the season than that.
10. The Yankees over/under win total right now it at 102. It’s the highest it’s been since 2009 when I believe it was at 100. Last year, it was at 96.5 following a 100-win season, and the Yankees won 103 games. Every expected starter except for Torres and DJ LeMahieu missed time last season and the team won 103 games. Expecting a team to win more than 100 games is a lot, but in the current state of baseball where spending money and trying to win isn’t on every team’s agenda, it’s easier than ever to do so.
The AL East has already been won. The Rays’ ceiling can’t compete with this Yankees team, the Red Sox are in the process of cutting payroll, the Blue Jays are still a few years away and the Orioles … well, they would be lucky to win 60 games this season. This Yankees team is better than the last two and the division is much worse than it was the last two years. The Yankees are going to win more than 102 games.
My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is now available as an ebook!