Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Announcements About Coaches, From The Yankees & From The White House

As you may know, the Yankees announced their complete coaching staff yesterday, for the 2016 season:

After a two year stint with the Arizona Diamond backs, Mike Harkey will return to his role as bullpen coach in the Bronx. Larry Rothschild will be back for another year as pitching coach.

Alan Cockrell has been promoted from assistant hitting coach to hitting coach, with Marcus Thames being slotted in as assistant.

Joe Espada will once again be the team's 3B coach. In addition to returning as 1B coach, Tony Pena will serve as catching instructor.

Rob Thomson will be Joe Girardi's bench coach for the second year in a row.

We also heard another announcement about a coach yesterday: Yogi Berra. The Hall Of Fame player who served as manager of two teams and coach for three, will receive the Presidential Medal Of Freedom. A well-deserved honor for a true American hero.

Though the award will be awarded to Yogi posthumously, I'm sure the Berra family will share it with the world, displaying it prominently in their father's/grandfather's museum.

Congratulations, Yogi.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Trade Breakdown: Aaron Hicks To The Yankees

The John Ryan Murphy for Aaron Hicks trade looks great for all involved. The Twins needed catching depth and the Yankees needed, at the very least, a fourth outfielder.

As fourth outfielders go, Hicks is an improvement over Chris Young. He is younger, 26 years old to Young's 32.  He is a switch hitter, where Young only bats right-handed.  (Hicks batted .307 vs lefties this past year, and .235 vs righties.) And he is a strong defender, with young being a few ticks below.

Perhaps this is why GM Brian Cashman believes Hicks is an "everyday player."  He wouldn't elaborate much on why he said it, but lots of people are doing a lot of speculating.  In the middle of all this speculating? Brett Gardner.

I wasn't on the Trade Brett Gardner Bandwagon at first, but the idea of it is something that has grown on me of late. Gardner makes a lot of money and, aside from taking a lot of pitches, his game really has been non-existent.  The switch-hitting Hicks is younger and cheaper, and seems to be a better base stealer. (He stole 13 bases in 97 games this past year, to Gardner's 20 in 151.)

There's a long way to go this off-season. We won't know exactly where Aaron Hicks will fit on the team for some time. For now, though, we can welcome him and wish him well.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Hot Stove More Fun With Yankees On Front Burner

The stove has only just been fired up and, already, the New York Yankees are on the front burner.

GM Brian Cashman has been quoted as saying he is willing to listen to offers for anyone on the team's roster, including the most recently dropped name, Andrew Miller. This has caused a firestorm, both on social media and in the traditional media. 

However, before the storm does anymore damage, it should understand this:

He's absolutely right. By listening to offers, Cashman is doing what every GM is supposed to do: his job.

Of course, more attention is paid to Cashman's job than to that of every other GM. Why?  For the same reason the Yankees are on the front burner: the off-season is more fun that way.

Yes, some of this focus is likely due to rumors started by the representatives of free agents. It has to be when the rumor involves a starting pitcher. The Yankees already have six-plus starters. There is no room in the in(nings).

Whatever the case, take a deep breath, Yankees Universe. Enjoy the hot stove, and try not to let it burn you.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Marcus Thames' First MLB At-Bat Was HUGE

Last week, after a successful turn as hitting instructor in the Yankees minor league system, former Major Leaguer Marcus Thames was promoted to assistant hitting coach with the big club.

Do you remember Thames' first Major League at-bat? It was as a Yankee, during an interleague game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The pitcher was a future Hall Of Famer: Randy Johnson.

Ah, yes. Thames connected on his first Big League swing and sent the ball over the left centerfield wall. What a thrilling moment!

After the game he was the subject of an on-field ESPN interview, during which he was hit in the face with a whipped cream pie. As I recall, he wiped his eyes and said, "I can't see nothin'!"

Thames saw everything during that at-bat, and saw a lot during a respectable 10-year career. Greg Bird and other Yankee prospects have a lot of respect for him. Here's hoping he earns it from the Yankees 25-man roster as well.

Congratulations, Marcus.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Yankees Fans: Forget the Mets, Watch a Baseball Movie Instead

With the World Series beginning tomorrow, the off season for the Yankees is in full swing. They made a quick exit from the post season, but in fairness there were already 20 teams at their winter homes when the Yankees were eliminated. Now that the Fall Classic is set (Mets and Yankees, in case you didn't know), perhaps you're  not interested in watching any of it without the Yankees? That is understandable. You still want baseball? I've got just the thing for you.

Watch a baseball movie.

May I offer my services and provide you with my top ten baseball themed (sometimes Yankees themed) movies?  (Unlike today, there are so many mediums on which to find these movies. When I was young, there were only two. Either it was playing at a theater nearby or it was on television, on one of the few channels available.) There are countless ways to find the movie of your choice. So, here goes, and you're welcome.

10. The Sandlot
Just this spring. a group of Yankees players reenacted one of the movie's iconic scenes explaining who the Babe was and why using a baseball with his autograph for a sandlot game was such a bad idea. The movie came out during my kid's childhood but the characters lived in my childhood, free of any electronic devices and full of imagination. The Babe himself makes a cameo and the hero of the movie, played by James Earl Jones, even knew the Babe or "George" as he called him, which was the Babe's given name.  Wendy Peffercorn did get her man and "You're killing me, Smalls" became one of that era's most repeated sayings and those of us who lived in the 60's, followed baseball and got ourselves in at least a little trouble, were caught up in the nostalgia of the movie.

9. A League of their Own
The nostalgia was of a time before mine. It was based on a true story of Cub's owner Philip K. Wrigley starting a league of women baseball players during World War II in four small cities near Chicago. Eventually the league expanded to include my hometown of Peoria, but the league folded the year I was born. Although some baseball scenes were poorly displayed, the story line was a fun trip to a time when we discovered that girls can play ball.

8. Fear Strikes Out
Jimmy Piersall did not like this movie. There was more to his life than climbing backstops and running around the bases backwards. He was an accomplished centerfielder for the Boston Red Sox. Anthony Perkins, who a few years later would forever be remembered as Norman Bates in Psycho, portrayed Piersall in the movie. Jimmy's father was played by  Karl Malden. The movie was true in the sense that Piersall did suffer from mental illness and recovered. Again, the makers of this movie took liberties in some baseball scenes. Piersall would not have shook hands with the third base coach as the movie showed upon hitting a home run: it was an inside the park home run. Geesh!!

7.  The Babe
John Goodman was both a poor choice and a good choice to portray Babe Ruth. Bad because it seemed the Babe that Goodman played was always a fat oaf who could only hit long home runs. Truth be told, Ruth was an accomplished player and a great athlete, the best player that ever lived. Goodman could not show us that image, so he didn't even try. The good side of Goodman's acting was Ruth off the field, a fun loving and untamed adolescent whose childhood was lost inside the walls of an orphanage. The Babe did indeed burst on the scene in a spectacular way and the rest is history.

6.  42
Before Jackie Robinson arrived on the scene in 1947, the Brooklyn Dodgers were the perennial also ran, "Dem Bums," who rarely contended in the National League. In Robinson's first year the Dodgers won the pennant and would go on to win six pennants in Jackie's ten years. There were many heroes that made it all possible, Branch Rickey, Pee Wee Reese, Leo Durocher and Rachel Robinson among them, but none greater than Jackie Robinson himself. The  villains were countless including players, owners, managers and many fans. I probably shouldn't mention that Phillies manager , Ben Chapman, was a former Yankee. What a guy.  And those six world series in which Jackie played, were all against the Yankees, with the Dodgers winning only once, in 1955. Still, these series were played on the highest level, witnessed by the fact that four of them were decided in a final seventh game. The golden era of baseball, which started in 1947 was much the result of Mr. Robinson, and those who followed him and for whom the doors were finally opened.

Field of Dreams
I did not like this movie at first. It seemed hokey. A man hears voices in an Iowa corn field, plows under his crop and builds a baseball field. Then ghosts appear. Still not satisfied he hears more voices and, about to lose his home, takes a road trip to Boston, kidnaps a writer to take him to a baseball game--a Red Sox game, no less. So then they see something on the score board at Fenway that prompts a return to his Iowa farm with a detour to Minnesota. Well, you know the rest and yes, the movie did grow on me. Quite a bit, it grew on me over the last 25 years. Time to "have a catch."

Bull Durham
It was life in he bush leagues at its best. And did you catch the ending? She built a shrine to Yankees great Thurman Munson. Classic.

3. Major League
A cast of characters that brought us to the inside of the game better than anything since Jim Bouton wrote "Ball Four." Of course all the characters were "juuuust a bit outside" as Harry Doyle (Bob Uecker) put it.

2, 61*
Billy Crystal recalling the idols of his childhood, the 61 Yankees. Mantle and Maris were well played by the actors, some of the others, not so well. Relive a pennant race with one of the greatest Yankees teams of all time.

1. Pride of the Yankees
The best baseball movie, ever. Yes, it was a sappy 40's style love story and they redid Gehrig's speech, which was fine the way it was, but all in all there was no better baseball flick, period, End of story.

Of course, there were other movies deserving mention, including those of recent vintage, Trouble With the Curve and Moneyball. There are countless oldies like The Winning Team with Ronald Reagan as Grover Cleveland Alexander, The Spirit of St Louis, and of course The Natural, which wasn't my favorite, but perhaps was yours.

When I saw 42 it took me back to a time when I saw the Jackie Robinson Story that starred Jackie as himself. A group of Yankees including Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris made cameos in A Touch of Mink starring Cary Grant and Doris Day. (I recall seeing Cary Grant at Yankee Stadium back in the '70's)

The best (really the worst) Yankees baseball movie might have been the 1962 classic Safe at Home with Mantle and Maris making appearances with a little boy who ran away from his home to the Yankees new Spring Training home in Ft. Lauderdale where he encounters his heroes. I seem to remember the little kid saying over and over "Mickey Mantle. Roger Maris," ad naseum. As I recall, that is all the kid said during the whole movie. Yes, if you haven't seen Safe at Home go ahead and watch it. Just promise you'll never speak of it again.

Happy viewing!!