Wednesday, January 30, 2019

My Nightmare: The 1996 World Series

Image result for Jim Leyritz getty images
(Doug Pensinger / Getty Images Sport / Getty)

I was eleven.

I didn’t know any better

But 20 years later, the series still haunts me. The most vicious of nightmares.

Growing up, kids have nightmares all the time. Nightmares of the boogey man, monsters under the bed, or even a piece of hair in your grilled cheese.And I had all of those nightmares. But the one’s that kept me up at night were nightmares of a different variety.

When I was eleven, I had nightmares of guys like Wade Boggs, Paul O’Neil, Charlie Hayes…

and Jim Leyritz. 

Saturday, January 26, 2019

The George M. Steinbrenner Clause

Image result for Manny Machado
As we approach the last week of January, we unfortunately are still stuck with the most intriguing, yet tired story line of the baseball offseason…

…where will Bryce Harper and Manny Machado sign?

It is intriguing because Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are two of the top five talents in the game, both are under the age of 27, both can be the new face of any franchise that they sign on the dotted line for. 

However it has now become the most exhausted discussion because teams are so hesitant to commit big money over for a long period of time. Clubs have been burned by this approach so many times, that it seems to be the rule, that no club should ever sign a player (for longer than 8 years), no matter how young and talented they are. But that leaves plenty of questions: 

Shouldn’t Harper and/or Machado be the exception to the rule? 

Harper and Machado should be the exception to the rule. They don’t have to be signed to a 10-year deal, but an eight year deal, with a player option after the 3rd or 4th season should not be unreasonable. Harper and Machado are entering the prime years, and their presence alone will generate enough interest in nearly any club, that ticket sales, merchandise sales, and the overall value of the club should easily pay for their salaries. I mean, isn’t this why people buy baseball clubs? To make money? Harper and Machado are attractions, and if marketed correctly, should be great investments for at least the first three seasons. In all likelihood Harper and Machado would opt out after three seasons to can gain another 30+ million year contract. And Harper and Machado on the market again would be another intriguing story line. Which is good for baseball. 

Isn’t this bad for baseball? 

What is not good, is how both of these stars remained unsigned. If this was the NBA or NFL, they would have reached agreements with their clubs before Thanksgiving, because both, the NBA and NFL’s off seasons, have become the more interesting/active off seasons. This was an honor baseball used to have, and an honor baseball needs. There is no getting around the fact that the ‘dog days of summer’ is a time of year when fans start to focus more on football. August and September are not exactly exciting months during the baseball season, but in past years baseball could at least generate interest in October with the World Series, and November and December with an active offseason. This is something the sport needs to win back. 

Should baseball commissioner, Rob Manfred, intervene to speed this process along? 

Unfortunately Manfred cannot intervene for so many reasons. It sets a bad precedent, the owners would never allow it, and while it would be a progressive maneuver, baseball is anything but progressive. But before soon, Manfred will be enthralled in a labor dispute if the owners don’t start ponying up the dough. If Manfred could hypothetically do something, fun and exciting to solve this problem what if he encouraged the following: 

The George M. Steinbrenner Clause:  If you finish in last place in your respective division 2 out of 3 seasons, your franchise enters the George M. Steinbrenner List. The former Yankees owner would never tolerate losing, even when the Yankees lost, and would make any move possible to improve his clause. He wasn’t always the smartest, but he was always trying. And if you make the list, you must increase your payroll by 30% that offseason. 

Is it perfect? Absolutely not

Is it awful? Yeah its probably littered with a whole bunch of problems.

But it’s interesting, and right now baseball needs to be interesting as much as it needs its owners who sit on their millions upon millions of dollars to take their losing franchises into relevant ones. 

So what if Harper and Machado joined forces, to prove their value and signed on with a last place team, and turned them into winners, wouldn’t that drive up their value? In 2018, the Orioles, Royals, Rangers, Marlins, Reds and Padres finished last place in their respective divisions and there is no denying that Harper and Machado would instantly improve each one of those clubs. But what would be the best destination for these two talents:

6. Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles are going to be bad for quite some time. The farm system is terrible, there is no pitching in sight, and their major league club will look like a contending team, in the Carolina league. As good as Harper and Machado are, the Orioles would still lose close to 85-95+ games with these two. They were already one of the worst teams when they had Machado. 

  1. Jonathon Villar-2B
  2. Manny Machado-SS
  3. Bryce Harper-RF
  4. Mark Trumbo-DH
  5. Trey Mancini-LF
  6. Chris Davis-1B
  7. Renato Nunez-3B
  8. Cedric Mullins-CF
  9. Austin Wynns-C

5. Texas Rangers

The Rangers still have some young sluggers, Rougned Odor and Nomar Mazara, that would be instantly be helped by the additions of Harper and Macahdo, but like Orioles the Rangers are in a middle of a rebuild as well. The Rangers would be better, but not significant. Although the lineup would be reminiscent of those great, steroid infused lineups of the 1990s. 

  1. Delino DeShields-CF
  2. Bryce Harper-RF
  3. Manny Machado-3B
  4. Nomar Mazara-LF
  5. Elvis Andrus-SS
  6. Joey Gallo-1B
  7. Rougned Odor-2B
  8. Shin-Soo Choo-DH
  9. Jeff Mathis-C 

4. Miami Marlins

While the situation in Miami is as dire as it is in Baltimore and Texas, Miami is still a somewhat more attractive destination. Jeter and Co. have nearly completed a complete teardown of the club with rumors surfacing that they are finally getting closer to trading J.T. Realmuto, and with that trade Miami should have a nice stockpile of young talent coming through the system. Harper and Machado are young enough, so when their prospects are ready to contribute in the major leagues, Harper and Machado will still be in their prime. 

Also, while baseball continues to flop in Tampa Bay, despite having one of the better teams in the league, baseball needs Miami to be a relevant baseball city. The new park is entering its third year, but without anyone on the team to bring fans to the park, it will become just another wasted effort to make baseball in Florida work. Machado is from Miami, Bryce Harper’s hair would benefit from the Florida sunshine, and maybe Jeter could convince his buddy (and another Miami favorite) Alex Rodriguez to come and coach. Pull out all the stops, have Alex Rodriguez be the hitting instructor and Jennifer Lopez can be the first base coach. She would cause every opposing first baseman in the league to make a minimum of three errors a game for not paying attention. 

  1. Lewis Brinson-CF
  2. Bryce Harper-RF
  3. Manny Machado-SS
  4. Starlin Castro-C
  5. Brian Anderson-3B
  6. Austin Dean-LF
  7. Peter O’Brien-1B
  8. Chris Wallach-C

*This includes a likely JT Realmuto move 

3. Kansas City Royals

The Royals are laying in the weeds. Talent is on the way and they have put together a super athletic, and speedy offense that could cause havoc for the opposition. They brought in Billy Hamilton, a notorious base stealer to play along with Adalberto Mondesi (32 stolen bases in 18’), and Whit Merrifield (45 steals in 18’). The Royals are going to attempt an old school, hit the ball on the ground, turn a double into a triple approach to try and win as many games as possible. Which probably will not be much. But if a Harper and Machado tag team were to come onto the club, it would be entertaining to see how pitchers would pitch to the two sluggers with speedsters like Hamilton, Mondesi and Merrifield on the bases. Besides, Kansas City, does not get recognized enough as a good sports town, and when the team wins, the fans show up in droves. It would also give the AL Central (what really should be called AL Cleveland) an interesting layer. 

  1. Adalberto Mondesi-SS
  2. Whit Merrifield-2B
  3. Bryce Harper-RF
  4. Manny Machado 3B
  5. Salvador Perez-C
  6. Jorge Soler-DH
  7. Hunter Dozier-1B
  8. Alex Gordon-LF
  9. Billy Hamilton-CF

2. San Diego Padres

San Diego has a surplus of resources to become instant contenders in baseball. They have one of the best farm systems in baseball, and have been vocal in wanting to spend big money this and next offseason. Just two year removed from signing Eric Hosmer to a 144 million dollar deal, San Diego has been lurking in the weeds, waiting for young stars like Fernando Tatis Jr., Fransisco Mejia, and Luis Urias on the brink of coming into the big leagues, the tandem of Harper and Machado could accelerate their development. With the Chargers moving to Los Angeles, the Padres are San Diego’s only remaining professional team, and having one of the most unique and beautiful parks in the country, it is time San Diego comes back into contention, with some real star power. Harper and Machado would instantly turn the Padres into the most exciting team in baseball. 

  1. Manuel Margot-CF
  2. Bryce Harper-RF
  3. Manny Machado-3B
  4. Eric Hosmer-1B
  5. Wil Myers-LF
  6. Austin Hedges-C
  7. Luis Urias-SS
  8. Ian Kinsler-2B

*When the bring Tatis up, Machado could slide over to shorstop, and Urias could slide to second base. 

1. Cincinnati Reds 

The Reds have had, quietly, a very active offseason. The Reds have been one of the worst teams in baseball, and like the Mets, are one of the few teams in the sport attempting to change that. Like San Diego, Cincinnati has a beautiful park, and like Kansas City have an excellent fan base when the team is good. The Reds also have one off their all-time great in Joey Votto about to enter the twilight of his career, and it would be something special if the Reds could make the postseason one more time before he decides to call it quits. Harper and Machado would absolutely mash in softball park that is the Great American Ballpark, and it would turn the NL Central, already with three World Series caliber teams (Milwaukee, Chicago) and St. Louis into the most competitive division in baseball. The Reds are one of the classic franchises in the sport, that has been irrelevant for too long. Two great additions like Harper and Machado to pair up with Joey Votto, would create a new version of the Big Red Machine. 


  1. Scooter Gennett-2B
  2. Manny Machado-SS
  3. Joey Votto-1B
  4. Bryce Harper-RF
  5. Eugenio Suarez-3B
  6. Scott Schelber-CF
  7. Yasiel Puig-LF
  8. Tucker Barnhart-C

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The Mets Mediocre Moves

Image result for New york mets

The Mets have had a ‘big’ offseason that has resulted in almost a complete turnover from last year’s club. But are the Mets any better? 

The Mets got off to a loud start to this offseason by electing to bring in former agent, Brodie Van Wagenen to be the new general manager. The move came with a lot of questions, the biggest one being, how could a guy who has never worked in an MLB front office be qualified for the most important job in a MLB front office? But the Wilpons, who like defy conventional thinking (and sometimes, logically thinking) decided to go with a wildcard in the hopes of adding a few additions to go a long with their aces. Which Brodie already has a connection with. Van Wagenen, whose clients were Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard

The New Look Mets

  1. Brandon Nimmo-RF
  2. Jed Lowrie- 3B
  3. Michael Conforto-LF
  4. Robinson Cano- 2B
  5. Wilson Ramos- C
  6. Todd Frazier/Peter Alonso- 1B
  7. Amed Rosario-SS
  8. Keon Broxton-CF

SP- Jacob deGrom
SP- Noah Syndergaard
SP- Zach Wheeler
SP- Stephen Matz
SP- Jason Vargas 

RP- Seth Lugo
RP- Luis Avilan
RP- Paul Sewald  
RP- Hector Santiago 
RP- Robert Gsellman 
SP- Jeurys Familia 
CP- Edwin Diaz 

B- J.D. Davis
B- Juan Lagaras 
B- Travis d’Arnaud 
B- Jeff McNeil 

What’s better?

After years or attempting to make it better, the Mets have finally upgraded their bullpen in a massive way. Edwin Diaz is not one of the best closers in baseball, but with all apologizes to Aroldis Chapman, he is the best closer in baseball (at least in the regular season he is). Even more impressively is that Diaz is cheap and controllable. He’s a big splash, without have to make a big withdrawal, and for a stingy ownership group trying desperately to appear that they are trying to win, its the best deal they have made in a decade. Now while the Mets did have to take on Cano’s hefty contract, if they are able to squeeze a year or two of above average play out of their above aged second baseman, than Brodie’s first trade will be a memorable one. 

The Mets also brought back Jeurys Familia to a more comfortable role as either a 7th or 8th inning role to go along with Lugo and Gsellman. These three, with Diaz, give the Mets a deep bullpen that can shorten games, a luxury the hope not to need, but glad to have. While the Mets have boasted having the best starting pitching in baseball, they may be able to argue they have the best all around pitching in baseball. 

What’s not better? 

Aside from adding Diaz, the Mets have been very busy trying to upgrade the offense. Robinson Cano moves over to second, and then the Mets signed Jed Lowrie to more than likely start, primarily at third base (which moves Todd Frazier over to first until Peter Alonso is deemed ready to play) and Wilson Ramos, formally of the Phillies, to start at catcher.  Both Cano and Lowrie will be over the age of 35 on opening day. The Mets also made two trades, one for Keon Broxton a talented but odd-man out of the Brewers outfield a year ago, and J.D. Davis a talented but odd-man out of the Astros infield. Both players have showed promise either in the minors (Davis) or in the majors (Broxton) and if they are able to sustain their success in the majors, they could prove to be big additions. But that is a massive if. 

Just as questionable is the ability for the Mets elderly infield to remain healthy. Lowrie is coming off of back to back 150 game campaigns, but his career has be littered with injuries. Ramos, 31, has only played 100 or more games, twice in a season. With Frazier (32 years old) coming off his first injury-ridden season, the Mets will have to hope that their seasoned infielders defy their ages. 

But a team that has suffered year after year with crushing injuries to big, aging stars (David Wright and Yeonis Cespedes) its hard to expect Met fans to be optimistic. 

What else can they do? 

Based on recent interviews with Brodie it appears the Mets are pretty content with the moves they have made. They could add a piece or two more to the bullpen, perhaps bring in a veteran starter like Gio Gonzalez to round out the rotation, but there is still a chance the Mets could make one more bold move. With big names like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado still available, Met fans could ream that the Mets swing a deal for one of these franchise altering stars who would be immediate upgrades at whatever position they play. With their price tags appearing to drop, due to lack of interest, a player of that caliber has never been more affordable to the Mets. 

There were also rumors, earlier in the offseason, to trade Noah Syndergaard to fill some holes that the Mets ultimately through trades and free agency, which would then spur a run at Indians ace Corey Kluber. With all of those rumors subsiding, people still wondered why the Mets, who are selling that their team aims to compete in 2019, would trade one of the best young starters in the game for an aging one? While Kluber is more accomplished, when you factor in their ages, it seems like a no brainer that no club would ever consider doing that swap...

...unless the return for Syndergaard was substantial. 

Perhaps it is because Syndergaard is not apart of the longterm plans for the Mets. The Mets are hoping to extend deGrom to a longterm contract later on this year, and even though Syndergaard is under control until 2021, the writing appears to be on the wall, despite Brodie making it public that they do not intend to trade Syndergaard. 

But the Mets are still lacking some serious power in their order, and with reports saying that Yeonis Cespedes could be out for a majority of the 2019 campaign, the Mets need a major upgrade to the heart of their order if they intend to compete. 

So what should they do? 

There is no way around it. If the Mets plan to make the playoffs, their offense needs a bigger upgrade. Lowrie, Ramos and Cano are all nice upgrades, but its not 2015, so they really are no more than small upgrades. After having two straight losing seasons, the Mets need more than small upgrades. The Mets are now priding themselves about the depth they have acquired, but if just one of those aging, injury-ridden stars, the depth has vanished. Behind Ramos, for example, is still Travis d’arnaud, an already injury-ridden player. It’s not unfeasible to imagine that the Mets could be out of catchers by the All-Star break. 

But with the additions they have made, they can’t add any more to the infield, and expect to play everyone. So there is only one position left that could be upgraded. Centerfield. 

Now AJ Pollock is still out there. But he too still has his injury concerns, which is why the Mets have been passing. Which leaves the Mets only one choice. Make a trade. 

The Upgrade

Mets trade: Noah Syndergaard
to Astros for: George Springer

Its so simple, it works. From the Mets perspective, this trade would be a massive upgrade that would provide adequate depth to the order:

1) Nimmo-RF
2) Springer-CF
3) Conforto-LF
4) Lowrie- 3B
5) Cano- 2B
6) Ramos- C
7) Frazier/Alonso-1B
8) Rosario-SS

It would stay in line with the theme of, making the Mets a younger, more athletic club, Springer would also be a right-handed power bat to fill the void of Cespedes, and it allows everyone to move down in the order. Springer is a free agent after this year, and with Syndergaard no longer in the equation, the Mets could choose to lock him and deGrom this offseason. 

From the Astros perspective, Syndergaard would complete the deadliest trio of starters with Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. Aside from just looking at the 2019 season, the Astros are faced with the reality that their young core will one day have to break up once they hit free agency. Dealing Springer in favor of Syndergaard, who is controllable until 2022, allows the Astros more time to decide who they want to lock up. Now it becomes more feasible to sign Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve. 

If the rumors are true about Syndergaard, and his position in the franchise, this would be the best way to maximize a return on a Noah trade. The Mets could then try to explore a Corey Kluber trade one more time, or sign a veteran starter or two at a bargain rate (Gio Gonzalez, James Shields). 

If the Mets are trying to change their fortunes that have relied heavily on their starting pitching and avoiding injuries, it’s hard to argue, despite their creative additions that Brodie Van Wagenen has made, that the theme of this team has changed. 

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Baseball's Cold Winter

Image result for Bryce Harper

There was a lot of anticipation going into this 2019 offseason. The Red Sox were coming off a historic campaign where they won 108 games, dominated the Yankees in the playoffs, upset the Astros and sent the Dodgers packing in five games to win the World Series. As impressive as their run was, what was equally significant is how disappointed teams felt after they hoisted the World Series trophy. 

The Dodgers had now lost back to back World Series. After trading for Manny Machado and Brian Dozier during the season, the Dodgers still seemed to be missing something. That wasn’t more evident than in the World Series. Even with the likes of Machado, Cody Bellinger, the emergence of Walker Buheler, and Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers still couldn’t get over the hump. But there was hope, Corey Seager will be back in 2019 from injury, and a few more moves could finally put the Dodgers over the hump.

But they haven’t done much of anything.

All and all I thin every Astro player and fan alike would say 2018 proved to be disappointing. With Gerritt Cole proving to be the ace they dreamed over to go along with Justin Verlander, the sky was limit. Even with a not typical great year from Jose Altuve and oft-injured Carlos Correa the Astros offense was dynamic, especially with Alex Bregman budding into a superstar. After sweeping the Indians in the ALDS, most experts didn’t just think they would beat the Red Sox in ALCS, the only thing they questioned, would be how many games would it take. But the Astros never got healthy, and the pitcher was not enough. The Astros are another year older, and key kogs like Marwin Gonzalez and Dallas Keuchel are heading elsewhere.

The Astros signed Michael Brantley to fix that. 

The Yankees were obliterated by the Red Sox in the ALDS. After wining 103 games during the regular season. The previous offseason they made the biggest of moves by bringing in Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins to pair him with Aaron Judge. Stanton, Judge, Sanchez and the arrival of Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar gave the Yankees the most exciting lineup in the last 20 years of the sport. But Yankees pitching could not rise to the same level. Yankees ace Luis Severino was shelled in Game 3, as the Red Sox won 16-1, and then finished off the Yanks for the sweep in game 4. In the old days, a loss like this would have sent ‘the Boss’ in a tizzy, as he would have pursued every big name in the game to ensure that, what happened in 2018, would never happen again.

The Yankees have added James Paxton, Adam Ottavino, and DJ LeMahieu. 

Aside from those who were left for roadkill by the Red Sox in the postseason, there are a number of teams with disappointing results last season. The Cubs never looked right, and that’s despite Javier Baez’s MVP caliber season and Cole Hammels second half surge back to ace status. The Nationals once again fizzled, didn’t make the playoffs, and are faced with losing the face of the franchise (and don’t seem to be putting up much of a fight to, to bring him back). There seemed to be only three real contenders in the American League, and aside from the Indians, A’s and Rays, nobody else even pretended to be.

Of the non-contenders, the Phillies and White Sox made it known that they want in. Both clubs were transparent in saying they would spend big money to improve their clubs in the hopes they would become the new contenders to make the playoffs. Both have flirted with big name  additions like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, two players that would not only put their clubs on the map, but become the instant face of the organization. But after numerous meetings with both players, from both clubs, neither has been signed. 

The White Sox have been doing a good job creating the Manny Machado entourage cast with adding Yonder Alonso and Jon Jay. 

But what does all of this mean? Yes I know, the Mets have been "big spenders" this offseason, but that's a conversation for a later date (try later this week) 

Many are beginning to question the current structure of baseball. Ten or even five years ago, baseball didn’t work this way. Young players would be offered their arbitration knowing by the time they hit 28-30 years of age, they would get offered that big contract, by one of the big market clubs. But baseball has changed. No more are teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, or Dodgers offereing 8-10 year contracts for players, no matter what their age is, especially if they are over 30. Five years ago the likes of Machado and Harper, who are both under the age of 28 and considered top five talents in the game, don’t appear to have any suitors lining up for that kind of long term deal. 

George Steinbrenner is currently rolling over in his grave.

You can’t blame teams for trying to operate at a smarter and more financially conscience level. So many teams have been burned or buried under the weight of those deals that it drastically slows down a teams ability to rebuild. Just ask the Tigers and Rangers how their rebuilds are going. And not every club, like the Yankees or Red Sox have the capital, monetarily or with their fans, to throw money around every single season. While the Yankees are not going all in on either Harper or Machado, they also, don’t need to, and the additions of LeMahieu, Paxton, and Ottavino will more likely prove to be a better addition as a whole, than adding either superstar. 

Again the boss rolls over in his grave. 

While the goal is to win the World Series ever year, and a player like Harper and Machado is probably the best, single addition, a team could make to make that happen, the risk of it not happening is still far greater, and teams seem to be more interested in trying to finically ‘spread the wealth’ to find sustained winning. Simply put, its much easier to win somewhere between 81-88 games (being competitive) than winning the World Series. 

However, while teams are operating at smarter level, leaves an ugly truth that baseball is going to have to deal with. Players have to get paid at some point. And while fans can quibble over the morality of players making millions of dollars, the health of the sport is in jeopardy. The current structure is now outdated, and since owners cannot dangle the carrot of ‘just wait until its your turn’ what is a player to do? For the last five years, baseball has celebrated this young influx of talent, which has proven to be some of the best in baseball history. But now the system is now imprisoning the young talent of the game and if baseball does not act soon, once again the sport will face a player’s strike.

Next year may be the tipping point. With talents like Nolan Arrenado, Paul Goldschmidt,  Xander Bogaerts, Madison Bumgarner and others poised to hit the open market, if baseball cannot autocorrect itself for the likes of these proven superstars, will it ever? If players of this caliber once again have to wait until a couple of weeks before Spring Training to sign a deal at  a ‘discount rate’ for billion dollar owners, players will have no choice but to act. 

For a sport seemingly over the black eye of the steroid era, thanks to the young superstars who reminded us how much fun it is to play baseball, we will once again be enthralled in another labor dispute, same as before, right before the steroid era. 

And we all remember how much ‘fun’ that was.