About the Off-Season: Assorted Notions.
By Tim Kabel
February 9, 2023
It is Thursday, the day I have been using to focus on multiple, smaller topics, rather than one larger theme. It seems like this just happened a week ago. Oh right, it did. We will soon be waking up from our winter hibernation and be ready to watch baseball on a regular basis. We are closer to the beginning of the 2023 season than we are to the end of the 2022 season. One week from now will be the eve of spring training. I will hang my stirrup socks next to the fireplace before I go to bed and hope that they are filled with a new starting shortstop and third baseman in the morning. Until then, let's consider several topics:
At this point, Anthony Rizzo is the only left-handed hitter in the Yankees' lineup. Oswaldo Cabrera and Aaron Hicks are switch hitters and Ben Rortvedt could conceivably make the team as a backup catcher but, at this point, Rizzo is, as Tigger would say, "the only one." Despite that fact, I am not pining for Joey Gallo. His departure was a perfect example of addition by subtraction.
Someday, I will compile a list of entertainers who at one point played professional baseball. Here are three right now: Kurt Russell, Chuck Connors, and Charley Pride.
There is no way to sugarcoat this. If Aaron Hicks, Josh Donaldson, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa are all in the starting lineup on Opening Day, it will be a major disappointment and a bad sign for the 2023 season.
It is common for fans my age and older to be nostalgic and claim that everything about the game was better when we were kids. However, the quality and variety of food at the ballpark today is far superior to what was served when I went to my first game in 1977.
The Yankees have invited 29 non-roster players to spring training. I saw the list. A list is a roster. As George Carlin would say, “if they are on a roster, how can they be non-roster?”
I wonder if Tyler Danish will get a cup of coffee.
Of those 29 players, do any of them have a realistic chance of making the team?
Of the veterans, I would suspect Willie Calhoun, Rafael Ortega, and Ryan Weber would have a legitimate shot of being on the team on opening day.
Out of the kids, Anthony Volpe would be the most likely to make the team. Hal Steinbrenner went on the record to say he should be given an opportunity to do so.
Other than Volpe, it will be very interesting to see Jasson Dominguez, Austin Wells, and Elijah Dunham. I don't think any of those three will make the team out of spring training but, we could have a sneak preview of what they may be able to do in the future.
As important as it was for the Yankees to re-sign Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo and bring in Carlos Rodon, it will be almost as important for them to integrate some of the kids into the lineup and to remove Aaron Hicks, Josh Donaldson, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa from the starting lineup. In the case of IKF, he could fill a backup role. The other two need to be off the team.
It is unknown how many games John Sterling will call this season. Last year he skipped the longer road trips in the second half. The answer to the question, "In how many games will Sterling miss a call?", is perfectly clear. All of them.
If you were Anthony Volpe's parent, how would you feel entrusting your son and his career to Aaron Boone? Remember, Boone has not shown a great deal of enthusiasm or tolerance for young players. He has not successfully developed any stars during his time as Yankees manager. The consensus is that Volpe will be a Bonafide major leaguer but, the manager can make that process much easier or much harder. I suspect that Boone will make it harder. I don't believe that it will be intentional, but the effect will be the same.
We should be able to tell early on in spring training if the kids will be given a fair shot. If IKF starts the bulk of the games at shortstop and Volpe, Peraza, and Cabrera only appear sporadically and late in games, then we will know it will be more of the same from last year.
If Boone sticks with the same tired group, it could be a very long season. The optimism that has been present during most of the off-season could disappear while the manager shakes his head, blows bubbles, and makes smug remarks about sticking with players he knows.
The whole point of not signing marquee free agent shortstops was because the Yankees had homegrown prospects who would soon be ready. Sticking with an infield combination of Donaldson, IKF, and Gleyber Torres would cast doubt on the team's confidence in their young players and take a great deal of the luster off this team.
On a non-baseball topic, I highly recommend the film The Banshees of Inisherin. Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Kerry Condon give remarkable performances.
How much running will the Yankees do in spring training? Will they begin taking advantage of the new rules in Florida or wait until the season starts? I would suspect and hope they would start getting used to the new way of the world in spring training.
On another non-baseball topic, I wholeheartedly recommend the cookbook: The Lost Kitchen: Recipes and a Good Life Found in Freedom Maine. I have tried some of the recipes and they are amazing.
Who will the YES network get to replace Cameron Maybin and Carlos Beltran?
I would like to take a moment to wish my older brother, Will, a happy 71st birthday.