Perspectives: Random Thoughts...
By Paul Semendinger
November 4, 2022
I took a back seat this week to much of the blog writing, and, as always, am so impressed with the team we have here along with the detailed, thoughtful, respectful, and thought-provoking comments. Thanks to all.
Sunday is a big day for me. I'll be running the New York City Marathon. If any reader wishes to track me on the course, my race number is 50839. If any readers are running this year, come say hello to me at the Inter-Faith Service Tent. I assist with the service there and share a sermon before the race. My sermon will be a modified version of the one I delivered in Wyckoff, NJ last Sunday.
This will be my 23rd marathon and my ninth NYC. I LOVE that race.
I put more miles into my training this year than ever before, but, as always, in the days before the race, the whole thing seems so intimidating. Running 26.2 miles? What am I, crazy? I could just stay home and watch football or go shopping or take a nap. Why do I keep deciding to run this race?
Because I LOVE IT!
I think it is important to continually set all sorts of goals in life. This year, I decided to run every single day. I have maintained that, thus far. I'm at 307 consecutive days. It's been great, but I am looking forward to a day off on January 1, 2023.
I run, to paraphrase JFK, "not because it's easy, but because it is hard." Again, it's important to always find ways to challenge ourselves in so many ways.
On to baseball...
We can be critical and disappointed in things we love. I love the Yankees, of course, but I am always honest in sharing my feelings about the decisions they make.
One of the things I will never understand is how we, a bunch of bloggers and fans, understand the Yankees, in some ways, much better than the people running the team. I base this statement on three realities that were ignored or discounted for long periods these last many years: (1) Hiring a manager to learn on-the-job makes no sense for a team that has World Series aspirations, (2) The Yankees, in order to be successful, need strong left-handed hitting (power hitters), and (3) the Yankees also need strong left-handed pitching. What is frustrating is that we've known this and written about this for five years, and yet the Yankees keep making the same mistakes, time and again.
Right now, the Yankees have one left-handed starter and one left-handed relief pitcher they can count on in 2024. That's just not good enough. Say what you will about Jordan Montgomery, he was, over the last two seasons a better pitcher than Jameson Taillon and Domingo German. He was also better than Frankie Montas. (I'm using ERA+ as the standard here: Monty (avg = 111.5), German (101), Taillon (100), Montas (108).) Yet Monty is the guy they traded away. Yes, of the bunch, he's the only left-handed pitcher. The Yankees need lefty pitchers.
In order to get the players they felt they needed last summer, the Yankees traded away their top lefty minor league pitchers and Montgomery leaving the team with only Nestor Cortes as a left-handed starter for 2023. That's a big concern.
Now, in order to get a left-handed starter, or two, they are going to have spend even more. The Yankees keep spending bad money after good and sending away prospects - one after the next to try to make a better team while still ignoring the reality of what they need the most.
Think about this, at the trade deadline, they acquired Lou Trivino, Scott Effross, and Frankie Montas. They are all right-handed. The position player they got, Harrison Bader, is also a righty. (Granted, earlier they acquired left-handed Andrew Benintendi, but he is also not a lefty power bat.)
As far as left-handed bats, if Anthony Rizzo leaves, who are the strong lefty bats for next year? None right now. None. This has been a weakness for years and yet, it is a problem that has not been fixed and it is one that comes up again and again and again.
What would have cost more in the long run, Bryce Harper's salary or the years of non-production and the players traded (and salaries paid) to address the fact that the Yankees need left-handed hitting? Good, strong left-handed hitting.
The costs to not sign Bryce Harper have been exorbitant. I'd love for Hal Steinbrenner and/or Brian Cashman (whoever made the Harper non-signing decision) to own that huge, franchise-altering, mistake. Steinbrenner could say, "I didn't want to spend the money." Or Cashman can say, "I didn't think we needed him." But somebody should own it.
I said, at the time, that that was a decision the Yankees will regret forever. And they will.
Even if Rizzo stays, who are the other strong lefty bats? Please don't say Matt Carpenter. What he did last summer was magical, but it is not likely to be replicated. The Yankees should not bring him back. He was great. He was fun. It was a magical ride. But it's over. This isn't Disney World. If you go on the same ride again, it won't be the same. Before the few weeks of magic from Carpenter, he had been terrible, for years. It happens. I'd love for him to be great in 2023, but it is highly improbable and the Yankees cannot bet on improbable outcomes. They need sure things. Carpenter is anything but a sure thing.
After his great postseason, everyone is high on Harrison Bader, but I urge caution. The great postseason that Bader had did not prove that he'll be great in 2023. It proved, only, that he had a great postseason.
Let's also remember, if we give Bader credit for the small sample size of his bat, we also have to note that he made two errors and made, as I saw it, two very bad throws overthrowing the cut-off man and second base in important spots. For a defense first player, those are concerns. Bader, on the whole, impressed me, but we can't say, "What a hitter!" based on the small sample size, and, at the same time, ignore the poor defense because the sample size was small. You can't have one without the other.
As for hitting in the post season, Brian Doyle, in 9 post season games, had a batting average of .391. Harrison Bader played in 9 games this postseason and batted .300. Granted, he hit a ton of homers, but the point is - a small sample of postseason games doesn't prove anything about a player.
Also, prior to this year, in 10 postseason games, Bader batted .136 with no home runs.
The Yankees will have to make a decision on Bader after next season, based on only one season in New York. The problem is, he's a speed-first guy and the 2024 season, the first year of his new deal, will be his age-30 season. This is a player who has never played in 140 games in a season. In that regard, he looks somewhat like Aaron Hicks - high upside, solid defender... But, like Hicks, the red flag of him missing games is a concern. In 2021, he missed 59 games. In 2022, he missed 76. Before the Covid year, he missed 34 games in 2019. (He missed 10 games in 2020, which translates to 27 over a full season.) I have to ask, is Harrison Bader a long-term solution? If he has a big 2023, I'm sure, he'll be asking for a big contract.
I am always reluctant to give big contracts to players as they begin their 30's - and especially after career years. This is especially true of players who couldn't stay healthy in their twenties.
I think is also says a lot about the current state of the Yankees that the other free agent who they have to make a decision on is Andrew Benintendi. This is another player who misses games. In 2020, he played in all of 14 games. In 2021, he missed 28 games. This year, he missed 36.
Think about this... Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Harrison Bader, Aaron Hicks, and Andrew Benintendi are all players who have missed significant playing time, in recent seasons. Over the last two years, Aaron Judge has been the healthiest of them, but, it cannot be forgotten that he was out for much of 2020. So many people forget that. He was injured for what would have been the whole fist half. If there was a full season, he would have missed, probably 81 or more games. In short, none of these players can be consider "Ironmen." And those players, combined, are the Yankees main outfielders and their DH. That gives me pause.
I heard on the radio this afternoon (as I drove home from the NYC Marathon Expo) that the Yankees are basically going to wait until Judge makes a decision before they make any other big moves this off-season. If that's true, that is a terrible strategy.
If that's true it is another mistake of epic proportions.
The Yankees should give Judge a best-offer, a take-it-or-leave-it offer and say, "You can't hold us up." Give him a date, say December 1, and then, if he doesn't sign, they need to go about the business of trying to build a team without him. It's unlikely the Yankees will be good in 2023 without Judge. But, if he's the only player they acquire this off-season, it's unlikely they'll be any good with him. There are just too many holes and question marks. And, if the Yankees offer $300 million, and Judge doesn't feel that's good enough, then wish him luck. There comes a point where it doesn't make sense to sign him. I think $300 million is that point. In fact, I think $300 million is an overpay.
Whether or not Judge leaves, he'll be in Monument Park someday. You can count on that. If he leaves, even if there are hard feelings, there will be a day when they make-up. They always do. The Yankees will need to market Judge and he'll want his Yankees legacy.
If Judge goes elsewhere, I won't begrudge him one bit. Good for him. But if $300 million isn't enough to be a Yankee forever, then please don't ever say that's your wish.
Again, the Yankees cannot let Aaron Judge dictate their off-season. At all. If he holds them hostage (as D.J. LeMahieu did) that'll be a huge problem.
Let's go Yankees!