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Spring Break

Ed Botti



Here we are finally, at a significant date on the Mayan Calendar. The stars have aligned and the sun and moon are in position to bring new life and the start of a new summer solstice.


The “Day After” as it has become known as in NFL circles.


The Super bowl is in our rear view mirror and now we can all in good conscience start thinking about warmer weather, longer days, trips to the shore and the sounds and smells of Baseball.


OK, maybe it’s not quite on the Mayan Calendar, but you get the point.


The days of soft summer rain, traffic on the Parkway, drives in convertibles, rides on motorcycles, outdoor concerts and endless predictions, excuses, reproaches and blame is right around the corner.


Finally, Baseball season is not too far off!


For me, the winter always officially ends when pitchers and catchers report to spring training, regardless of whether or not I am still using my snow blower, warming up my car in the morning, wearing gloves and watching Hockey or Chicago PD re-runs at night.


Now that we are turning the proverbial page on the winter, and the Super Bowl is behind us what do we have to look forward to and more precisely what we have escaped being subject to on a daily basis.


First and foremost, I am grateful that we can now move forward without being force fed maps telling us how many miles Taylor Swift has flown over the last 24 hours.


We no longer have to watch college football games and try to convince ourselves that these are student athletes.


We can finally stick a fork in the relentless Aaron Rodgers coverage and Zach Wilson condemnations.


The “Tommy Cutlets” and “Danny Dimes” controversy will now take a back seat until August.


We can move on from the worthless and silly in-season NBA tournament we had this year, which was nothing more than a desperate attempt to add some meaning and interest to unimportant early-season games and generate massive amounts of on line gambling revenue.


We can also stop talking about the “Tush Push” and why the Eagles fell from an elite team to losing 5 of 6 to end the season and barely show up for the one and done playoff run.


On the bright side, we still have the NCAA March Madness tournament, the NHL playoffs and the 2024 summer Olympics from Paris, yet to unfold.


So what else do we have to look forward to now that spring is so close?


We will learn what a $70mm a season baseball player does.


We will find out if the Orioles can continue on at the 101 win pace they set last year; adding a legitimate Ace to their staff in Corbin Burnes or will they fall back to the pack.


We will find out if the Texas Rangers defend their title and hold off the Houston Astros in the AL West, and we will see how badly the Astros miss their leader, Dusty Baker.


We will all see how great of a manager Tito Francona was, now that he has retired and Cleveland has to fill those very large shoes.


Here are a few more 2024 MLB questions I look forward to seeing play out.


Where does Cody Bellinger end up?

Can Jacob deGrom play an entire season?

Can the Braves get past the Phillies?

How well will Arizona’s Corbin Carrol play in 2024?

Ditto for Texas’ Evan Carter.

Where does defending Cy Young winner Blake Snell end up.

Where does old friend Jordan Montgomery end up?

Can Craig Counsell lead the Cubs back to the Playoffs?

How much better can Ronald Acuna Jr. get in 2024 following his MVP 2023 season?

Can Dave Roberts survive a Dodger let down?

What/who are the 2024 Mets?

How well will Michael King pitch in San Diego?


But, most of all we have New York Yankee questions, don’t we?


Did they do enough this off season to get an army of fans to forgive and forget the dumpster fire season 2023 will go down in history as?


Let’s dig in on just a few unanswered questions.


I always start spring training with 1 question; can they endure a 6 week training camp without suffering any serious injuries?


Keeping in mind that last season the following players expected to contribute from day 1 of the season started the year hurt: Luis Severino, Frankie Montas, Carlos Rodon, Tommy Kahnle, Harrison Bader and Austin Wells never made it through camp, and Nestor Cortes showed up at camp already hurt.


Availability sometimes is more important than ability.


Let’s assume for the time being that they get through camp relatively healthy, and that they can field the team they put together this winter when the season kicks off. Now the question becomes what level of bounce back can we expect from the 2023 players that either failed to live up to their contracts or were too hurt to finish the season?


No list about Yankee bounce back season debates can start without Giancarlo Stanton. “Big G” as his teammates call him was a “Big Zero” in 2023. I don’t care how many new statistics are carefully manufactured to help justify big time bust outs. Giancarlo hit .191 over 101 games played. That is nearly 70 percentage points below his 14 season MLB batting average of .259.


Alarmingly, he struck out at a 33% clip.


They cannot afford to give 500 + at bats to a .191 hitter who struck out 33% of his 2023 at bats. MLB, Pecota, etc... can dream up whatever stats they want, and none of them will change .191 with 33% strike outs. Plus, we now have his broken down legs to deal with.


One thing he will never be accused of by me is not playing hard and not caring. When I watched him run the bases and track fly balls in 2023, it was pretty sad. Actually is was embarrassing. Especially for a proud athlete.


Love him or not, they cannot afford such a huge hole in their lineup.


If he gets off to a start that mirrors his 2023 (and even 2022 stats) he will have to sit if they are actually sincere in their declaration that they are in it to win it in 2024.


Comparable to what the 1986 Mets did with their high priced underachiever, George Foster, who sat until they eventually released him.


Similarly, the big 2023 free agent acquisition of Carlos Rodon can only be viewed as an utter failure by all involved in the decision to bring him to New York. I wrote here last year and I will reiterate it once again today.


A Major League starting pitcher that has averaged 118 innings a season over the entirety of his career is not worth $162mm. It was lunacy then, and it is lunacy today. My hope is that they can, at the very least, squeeze out 8 or so wins and an era right around 4.00.


In other words, I have no lofty expectations for him, and why would I?


When the offseason started in November, I felt they needed two starters to feel comfortable entering 2024.


They added one with Marcus Stroman. They viewed the markets for Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery as too high for their liking (weird since they dished out $162mm a year ago to a lesser pitcher).


If History prevails as it usually does, Stroman can easily be the teams number 2 starter for a stretch of the season.


That is concerning to me.


He is a guy who hasn't thrown over 140 innings in either of his last two seasons. Interesting and very telling is his vesting option for year 3 with the Yanks is contingent on him only throwing 140 innings in year two.


That is not a good look, in my book.


Right now the rotation looks to be (if healthy!) Cole, Rodon, Stroman, Cortes and Schmidt.


Clarke Schmidt turned some heads in 2023 when he unearthed an aptitude to pitch in to lefties.


Relying on Rodon and Nestor to have healthy 2024 seasons is risky, to say the least.


Expecting that Stroman doesn't break down like he did in the second half of 2023 is not comforting, especially when you consider they traded, released or lost in the rule 5 draft almost 10 pitchers this offseason.


The depth beyond the 5 starters is concerning.


Luke Weaver, Luis Gil, Clayton Beeter, Will Warren, and Chase Hampton. A rotation held together by duct tape with rookies being the backup options is not ideal when your proclaimed goal is a championship.


They had their chance, but failed to get Burnes, who will now be pitching in big games against them.


So, my award for the understatement of the year goes out to Aaron Boone who openly and honestly answered a reporter who asked about Burnes to the Orioles; “That could be a bit of a problem”, Aaron stated.


I agree Aaron.


The Yanks payroll is over $300M for the first time in their history. So, let’s all stop calling Hal cheap.


It has to do with how the money they invested is being spent and allocated.


On the plus side, 4 major 2023 under achievers are gone from the 2024 roster (Severino, Donaldson, Hicks and Bader).


Of the position players in need of bounce back seasons, I think Rizzo and DJ are the least to worry about.


DJ is now a full year removed from his 2022 foot injury, that unless you had painted over sun glasses on, was obviously hampering and impeding him in 2023.


Rizzo was having a solid 2023 until his undiagnosed concussion issue ruined a solid season. I see him bouncing back fine in 2024, unless of course the concussion that Yankee doctors apparently could not see for 60 days, is not completely healed.


Just as important is what can we reasonable expect from Nestor Cortes? Nestor was only able to take the ball 12 times last season and threw only 63.1 innings. Nestor became a fan favorite, and I hope he can bounce back. But, his injury was to his left shoulder, and unless you have suffered shoulder injuries to your throwing arm, you have no idea how difficult it is to not only throw pain free, but throw with the same level of velocity, movement, and command, and to repeat that for 30 plus starts.


I hate to say it, but the odds are not in his favor. Did they get insurance? No, they did not, at least as of today.


We can see by the new arms added to the Bull Pen (lefties Victor Gonzalez and Caleb Ferguson)  that they are following a strategy around pitching to contact and ground ball rates.


Gonzalez and Ferguson will be joined in the pen by Clay Holmes, Jonathan Loaisiga, Ian Hamilton, Tommy Kahnle, Ron Marinaccio, and a few open spots that will be filled via performance during camp.


Say what you want about Brian Cashman, and I have been critical myself, but he knows how to build a bull pen. I have no reason to believe he will not do so in 2024.


I keep going over this offseason in my head. When it kicked off, they landed arguably the number 1 bat available: Juan Soto. They also added some depth pieces in Trent Grisham and Alex Verdugo, and removed Harrison Bader from the mix.


At the time I was happy with these moves and looked forward to seeing what else they would do.


Since then, they have put the offseason on pause, IMO. They added Marcus Stroman, who may be a decent enough 4 or 5 starter on a good team, but hardly anyone who will change the balance of power, and watched as the Orioles landed an Ace in Corbin Burnes.


By the way, with the sudden sale of the Orioles this past winter, they became a team with not only a great farm system, but a team with money they are willing to spend.


So as we approach pitchers and catchers this week, my question to you is did they do enough? Did they improve enough to compete with the Orioles, Rays and Blue Jays, who have all improved themselves this offseason?


Also, last but not least, did Hal ever ask those “difficult questions” he promised us that he would ask back in October? I have not heard much about that. And what, if any, conclusion(s) did those double secret consultants hired by Hal conclude?


I hope you all enjoyed the game, now put those jackets and gloves away! It’s Baseball time!


RIP Carl Weathers!



Photo AP


21 comments

21 komentarzy


jnichols351
jnichols351
17 lut

Great article, I always love spring training. I remember being a kid, the smell of the dirt and grass, the feeling of the dugout, magical.


If Stanton doesn’t turn it around he will end up being the worst acquisition in modern Yankee history. Not because he failed but the cost.


Yanks started off season strong with Soto, then nothing. I heard Boone and Cash once again say the starting rotation is one of the best in baseball if everyone stays healthy; what leads anyone to believe that the starting rotation is going to stay healthy?


Off season grade - C+ for Soto only

Polub

Jonathan Silverberg
Jonathan Silverberg
12 lut

Virtually every baseball analyst I've read this winter predicts the Rays will be unable to live up to previous years' performances, based on injured pitchers, departed players and no shortstop.

Polub
fuster
15 lut
Odpowiada osobie:

given that he might be age-appropriate to be called JuniorProm Caminero that's kinda unsurprising.

Polub

jjw49
12 lut

Last year at this time ..... Yankee fans were brimming with optimism regarding the pitching, and here we are a year later and the same optimism prevails and Yankees fans should be very skeptical of our SP. Yankees should be better than 82 wins this year and if they get to 90-92 wins playoffs should be within reach, but cautious optimism about pitching is very warranted IMO.

Polub
jjw49
12 lut
Odpowiada osobie:

Ugh..... an injury to Cole would be devastating! I don't want to think about that scenario 😫

Polub

etbkarate
12 lut

Fashionable -- That's something I have never been called before. Thanks, but my wife will disagree!. I am not in the Rodon camp for 1 reason, he is not durable. Yes, he had two double figure win season as a Chi Sox and as Giant. But, all the other 7 years suggest a frail, mediocre pitcher. I wanted more for this team, and still do. If you took out his 21 and 22 season, he has a 4.48 ERA over the other 7 season (590 innings). I don't see that as worthy of $162.

Polub

etbkarate
12 lut

I am not pitting him against Snell, but if I did, Snell is twice the pitcher. If you removed the 7.2 innings he pitched in 2020 (Covid year) he has averaged 119 innings per season. That is not good enough for a $162mm starter. That is my only point. I would have balked at him last winter.

Polub
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