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Looking Back at 2016

It’s been awhile – nearly five months if you’re counting.

This was a long offseason; a very fitting follow up to a difficult baseball season.

Fans should be passionate about baseball, but they shouldn’t be emotional. That’s a typical “girl” reaction and considering some people don’t even consider us legitimate fans, we should hide our emotions.

Last season wasn’t an easy one for me. I had a trifecta of gut-wrenching moments: the retirement of my favorite player, the trade of another favorite, and watching my hometown team lost the World Series. Again.

But – if I didn’t feel so strongly about each of those three things, I wouldn’t be the fan I am today.

***

As I’ve mentioned (many times), I became a baseball fan in 1997, and an Alex Rodriguez fan approximately five minutes later. Watching him play when he was just an insanely talented young shortstop in Seattle changed who I am as a baseball fan.

We all know someone, probably many people, who don’t like baseball because it’s “boring”. They see a lack of action on the field so the entire game drags on. Fans of the game know there’s so much more than meets the eye. We can appreciate how much of the game is mental rather than physical, and we can feel excitement even when there is no action.

Watching Rodriguez play in his early seasons brought this to life for me. It wasn’t because he was a good-looking guy pictured in magazines – it was because his fielding was energetic and I could feel the excitement every time he came up to bat. Suddenly, the game was so much more than just a guy throwing a ball, and another guy who may or may not hit it and run around the bases. It was the intellect behind the game and understanding the thought that went into each pitch, each at bat, and each play on the field. Baseball was anything but boring!

***

My appreciation for pitching is still developing. Admittedly, I don’t fully understand all the physics behind it, but I am constantly fascinated and learn a little more each game I watch.

Andrew Miller was the first pitcher I really “noticed”, and watching him pitch, at least in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful things in baseball. What impresses me about Miller compared to other pitchers is that he makes it look so effortless. He takes the mound, throws a few pitches (frequently facing the minimum number of batters), then strides over to the dugout like it was nothing.

Even more impressive is he’ll do that every game for multiple innings (any innings) if the team needs him to – and you’ll never hear a complaint. He seems to be exactly the kind of guy you want on your team and in your bullpen – a leader who puts the team before themselves.

As disappointing as it was to see the Yankees trade him, I’m glad he went to Cleveland. From the moment the trade was announced, Indians fans were happy to have him – and I’m certain it was genuine because Cleveland is home for me, and I know their fans; I grew up as one of them. Miller showed all the same character and talent in Cleveland as he did in New York. He embraced the city as his new home, he pitched whenever and whenever Terry Francona needed him, and even changed his entrance song because Indians closer Cody Allen was using the same one (Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down”).

***

And Cleveland – oh, Cleveland…! My hometown, known most infamously for losing sports teams and our river catching on fire, is where I became a baseball fan. For most of my life growing up, the Indians were the only baseball I could watch. Occasionally I would see a Mariners or Yankees game at my friend’s house (she had satellite TV and MLB Extra Innings – a big deal for that time), but Indians games were consistent. I was fortunate enough to see them make it to the World Series twice – and unfortunate enough to see them lose both.

Witnessing the Indians win the ALCS (with Andrew Miller’s help, no less) was one of the most exciting moments I’ve experienced as a baseball fan. The team seemingly came out of nowhere to make it to the World Series for the first time in 19 years. When the Cubs won the NLCS, I was slightly less excited. Both teams had long and disappointing histories. Regardless of what happened, the winning team deserved the win and the losing team would have to suffer a little longer. I was on the Cubs bandwagon right through the NLCS along with so many others.

Game seven was an emotional rollercoaster. I felt myself go from the extreme high after Rajai Davis hit that homerun, to the extreme low when Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo completed the final out. There I was for a third time in my life, crying over another disappointing Cleveland loss in the World Series.

But – that loss lead me to something good: it led me back to the Indians. I’ve never stopped being a fan, but I admit I haven’t always been a good fan. A lot of people don’t think it’s possible to have more than one favorite team, but I have to disagree. Cleveland is home, and the Indians are the team I loved first. If I didn’t watch their games, I would have seen Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees, or any other players/teams – and I may not be a baseball fan today.

***

What will 2017 bring? It’s the start of a new era for me as a fan. Thinking about what I’ve seen in the last twenty years makes me excited to start the next twenty years. My favorite player may be retired, I may never fully understand pitching, and my hometown my never win the World Series again – but who knows what exciting things are still to come.

Whatever happens, I just hope I’m there to witness it – and I hope I never experience such an emotional season again!

A Cleveland Love Letter

No matter what team we’ll be cheering for tonight, baseball fans everywhere can agree this is going to be a good World Series. Both teams, along with their fans, have been waiting their whole lives (or longer) for this moment.

For just the third time in my lifetime, the Cleveland Indians are going to the World Series, and I couldn’t be happier.

I’ve been told several times, by a variety of people, that you can’t have more than one favorite team. To be honest, I don’t really care what any of those people think. There are four teams in Major League Baseball I would be incredibly happy to see in the World Series because they’re my favorites. And there are a lot of other teams, the Chicago Cubs included, whose bandwagons I would jump on…if only they weren’t playing one of my favorite teams.

It has been 68 years since the Cleveland Indians won the World Series. Yes, it’s been longer for the Cubs – the whole world knows that – but 68 years is still a long time, especially in a city like Cleveland.

For my fellow Yankee fans who miss seeing their team in the playoffs, think of it this way: it’s only been nine years since the Yankees won it all (and it was great!). Imagine living those same nine years another nine (almost ten) times. That’s how long it’s been for Indians fans.

Until the Cavs won their championship earlier this year, Cleveland wasn’t considered a winning city. (Maybe it still isn’t?) The Indians came close a few times since 1948, but they never sealed the deal. The Cavs were pretty good, but then LeBron bailed (but eventually came back). And the Browns may not win a single game this season – there’s very little hope they ever see a Super Bowl in my lifetime.

Cleveland is “The Mistake by the Lake” is the butt of many jokes, sports included. I first realized this when I was a young child watching an episode of Saved by the Bell. When Kelly Kapowski said the Cleveland Indians were one of the biggest jokes in history, I asked my dad why she was being so mean to our team. “Because,” he said “the Indians were really bad for a very long time.”

I’m fortunate enough to have been too young to remember the really bad years. I do, however, remember exactly where I was when the Indians lost the 1995 and 1997 World Series. I could walk into my childhood homes (we moved in early 1997), stand in the exact same spot, and feel like the moment just happened. To be so close to winning it all and it slipping through their fingers…well, Cleveland never wins at anything anyway.

Cleveland is my home, and regardless of what people say, it’s a pretty damn great city! We’ve had our very public struggles (did your river ever catch on fire?), but we’re pulled through. The Cleveland I still visit today is very different from the Cleveland of years and decades past, and it’s getting better every day.

For most of my life, the Indians were the only baseball I had in my life, so I will absolutely be cheering for them tonight and for the rest of this season. I’ll be cheering with my 91-year-old Gramma who will be watching it at home (hopefully with a cold beer). I’ll be cheering with John Adams, the “annoying drum guy” who has sat out in left field for every game since 1972, including the bad ones. And I’ll be cheering for my Grampa, and many others who are no longer here to watch their team play ball.

It’s been a good year for Cleveland, and there will never be more excitement downtown than there is tonight. Let’s use that energy and #RallyTogether for our city.

 

I only wish I had a Great Lakes beer to drink with the game.

downtownskylinefinal1

 

 

 

 

 

Jose Fernandez

Last night, Orioles rookie Trey Mancini became the third player in MLB history to hit a homerun in each of his first three games in the Majors. My husband and I were sitting in section 43 at Camden Yards last night, and when the historical stat was displayed on the scoreboard, I said to my husband –

“You never know what you might see at a game. That’s why I like writing about every game I go to – although I’ve been very bad about it this year… And sometimes, you don’t realize the significance of what you see until much later.”

I didn’t expect that statement to be so true, so soon.

 *

At my hotel room in Baltimore this morning, I turned on ESPN, who was reporting breaking news. “Great,” I thought, “something is happening in football and I just want to see baseball highlights.” But then Jose Fernandez’s face appeared on the screen.

I don’t remember who reported the news, or what they said. I just remember gasping, and immediately crying when my brain comprehended the news. He wasn’t hurt, he hadn’t gotten into some kind of trouble – he was dead. At 24 years old. Gone from baseball, and the world, forever.

*

I saw Jose Fernandez pitch just once – one year and one week ago in DC – and it was by total luck. Early in the season, I had the chance for free tickets to a regular season Nationals game during the 2015 season. I chose a late season game, September 18, against the Marlins. I was hoping to see Giancarlo Stanton hit a monster homerun, but in June he broke his hand and was still on the disabled list when my game came around.

Instead, I was able to witness something much better – Jose Fernandez (back from TJS sooner than expected) vs. Max Scherzer (my favorite Nationals player) – and I wasn’t disappointed. Both pitchers had solid games, although both were no decision starts.

Fernandez was very good – until he wasn’t. He allowed one homerun and only two earned runs (same as Scherzer) over 5.2 innings, although he threw 95 pitches to do so. At the end of his outing, he looked fatigued – but still impressed me for someone making just his ninth start after recovering from TJS.

*

Jose Fernandez was easily one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball – and he had only three years of service time since his debut April 7, 2013. He will be remembered as much for his performance on field as well as his character.

We know his story of coming to the United States and becoming a professional baseball player. We’ve seen the devotion he has to his mom, and to his abuela. Recently we learned he was about to become a father.

Every baseball player loves the game, but few (if any) have ever expressed it the way Jose Fernandez did. So often we forget that baseball is a game and meant to be enjoyed, but Fernandez’s smile was a beautiful reminder that baseball is meant to be fun.

There are multiple stories of Fernandez connecting with teammates, opposing players, and the community. He formed bonds with children and with charitable organizations.

This is the kind of player you want representing baseball – or any sport.

Imagine if he had the chance to play a full career and we had twenty years of Jose Fernandez…

*

 Appreciate every moment life gives you. Love someone or something as much as Jose Fernandez loved life and baseball.

And remember every baseball game you go to. You never know what history – and greatness – you might witness.

 https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CtNEMiHXYAAPInP.jpg

 

Those Clever Indians!

Here’s a change in blog posts – I’m going to tell you a story, rather than give my opinion.

For anyone who doesn’t know, I grew up an Indians fan outside of Cleveland. I still consider myself an Indians fan, although not always a very good one…

My favorite team, of course, are the New York Yankees. One of my favorite Yankees of all time, possibly one of my favorite baseball players of all time, is Andrew Miller. When he was traded to Cleveland, I was devastated. Of all the teams in the league, it had to be my hometown team! But at the same time, I trusted the Indians and their fans to welcome him and appreciate him as much as I did while he was in New York. So far, they’ve done exactly that, and it makes my heart happy…even if I miss him terribly.

Now I live in Maryland – approximately halfway between the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals. Several of my friends work in DC, where it’s not uncommon for people to be very secretive about their jobs for various reasons. When you’re so close to the federal government, you learn not to ask too many questions because sometimes your friends simply can’t tell you any more about what their job involves.

One of my secretive job friends recently met some of the Indians front office staff while the team was in town to play the Nationals. My friend confirmed they were who they claimed to be, and then started to talk baseball with them…

Friend started with mentioning the Indians impressive season and the addition of Andrew Miller to the roster. The Indians people were clearly excited to talk about their newest acquisition. Friend got very bold then, and mentioned how I – a Yankee fan originally from Cleveland – was really sad to see Miller go, because he was my favorite.

The Indians front office guy grinned and said “Tell her ‘Go Tribe’ and ‘Welcome home!’”

 

You can’t make this stuff up!

 

Final note my heart still belongs to the Yankees, even if this year has been especially tough for me seeing my favorites leave. I have, however, committed to buying an Andrew Miller 24 Indians shirsey to support the hometown team.

I have a shirt for several MLB teams, but nothing for the Indians – it’s only fair!

 

Infield Dilemma

The Yankees need to chose a backup infielder who can play third base. That’s a very reasonable request, because even if Chase Headley somehow could return to his 2012 Gold Glove self, he will need an occasional day off. He, along with the rest of us, isn’t getting any younger.

At first, the backup at third was going to be Starlin Castro, but the Yankees decided it was best to keep him at second base, since even that’s a fairly new position for him (a decision I have to agree with). That left three players – Pete Kozma, Ronald Torreyes, and Rob Refsnyder as possible choices.

To be completely honest, I like Rob Refsnyder, and I’ve often praised him for doing everything the Yankees have ever asked of him. After being drafted as an outfielder, he learned to play second base at the team’s request (a transition many would say he’s still settling into), but was never quite good enough in the Yankees’ opinion to make the major league roster and play full time. This spring, they decided to try Refsnyder at third base, even though he had no profession experience at the position. In his first few experiences at third, he actually played much better than most people had expected.

But let’s look at the facts here – Rob Refsnyder is a 25 year old who has yet to prove himself (that’s debatable) as a dependable everyday player. Some might argue that if it hasn’t happened yet, it will never happen – even though a quick Google search will show the average age of a rookie player in MLB is 25.8 years old (Refsnyder turned 25 just this week). Not every rookie coming up is Manny Machado or Brycer Harper; most take a little while to really establish themselves.

Even still, the experiment of Refsnyder at third base can still look like a failure. According to MLB.com, Refsnyder has played third base in just ten games (seven starts and 51.1 innings total) this spring training. Ten games. Keeping in mind that is an incredibly small sample size and the only ten games he’s ever played at this position (with little to no time to prepare for his audition), he’s made four errors and has a FPCT of .818. Whether I like him or not, that looks bad. Even after the disappointing season and career high errors Headley had last year, he still finished with a .946 FPCT.

Another interesting point about Refsnyder’s fielding: in seven games (three starts, 27 innings total) at second base, he has not committed a single error and has a perfect FPCT.

Still, to be fair, that .818 at third is pretty bad. To that point, I can understand sending him back to SWB to work on his defense at third.

But that still leaves Chase Headley without an official backup, and so the Yankees are looking at Ronald Torreyes and Pete Kozma to fill that position. Those are interesting choices in my opinion.

Torreyes was acquired from the Dodgers in a rather unexciting trade this past January. Since he signed as an amateur free agent in 2010, he’s been with five different clubs and has less than a year of major league service time. He has experience at third base – he has appeared in 62 games and totaled almost 500 innings at third – in the minor leagues (with a .925 FPCT). At the major league level, he has just three games (five innings) of experience at third, all last year with the Dodgers (he also played in four games, 12 innings at second). This spring, the Yankees have given him quite a look as he’s played 81.0 innings over 20 games at either second, shortstop, or third. (Refsnyder had 78.1 innings played between second and third). However, while Torreyes FPCT has so far been perfect at every position, he has only spent 19 of those innings (in six games) playing third base.

Kozma is an even more interesting candidate. He is a veteran player who originally signed in 2007 but did not make his MLB debut until 2011. In his five years of MLB experience since, he has shown his ability to play multiple positions – all infield positions and left field. When he signed a minor league deal with the Yankees this off season, it was seen as an insignificant move to provide depth at AAA. Kozma has spent the most of his major league time at shortstop (he was the regular shortstop for the Cardinals in 2013) and has played just 14 MLB games (three starts and 135.0 innings) at third base.

Here are some of the offensive numbers for the three:

MLB G

MLB BA

MLB OBP

MLB Slg%

MiLB G

MiLB BA

MiLB OBP

MiLB Slg%

Kozma

275

.222

.288

.293

788

.238

.311

.348

Refsnyder

16

.302

.348

.512

430

.290

.380

.432

Torreyes

8

.333

.429

.500

612

.298

.353

.409

Admittedly, I am not an expert on sabermetrics. I’m not sure if there is a stat that can measure insanely difficult plays at third base, or take into consideration any abnormal trajectories of a batted ball. I am well aware that third base is not an easy position to play, and there is good reason it’s called the hot corner. That being said, I can’t help but feel like it’s insanely bad luck and some ridiculously difficult plays that would cause a player to be hit in the face not once, but twice – and on consecutive days – as Refsnyder was this spring. He isn’t new to baseball, and he isn’t new to playing the infield.

There is also no measure of how well a player can handle the pressure of playing in New York. I can’t say for sure what kind of pressure Torreyes might have had playing in another large market (LA), but I do know about the pressure Refsnyder faced after his MLB debut last year. Refsnyder made his debut at Fenway Park, in front of rival Red Sox fans, and faced a tough fan base in the Bronx. I’m not sure how other fans felt about it, but he did not seem to be phased in any of those games, including the AL Wild Card game.

I’ve tried to be optimistic and to a certain point, I do understand sending Refsnyder down to the minors to work on his defense at third. However, the Yankees gave him very little notice he would even be learning another new position, then gave him a sink-or-swim opportunity to prove himself, and finally made a decision in less than a dozen games.

While Kozma is a veteran player with more MLB experience than either Refsnyder or Torreyes, he’s signed to a minor league deal and not even on the 40 man roster. Him making the team seems like a bit of a long shot at this point.

That leaves Torreyes, who I believe will be the Yankees choice for backup infielder. On paper, he does seem to be the better player offensively and defensively, which the Yankees will likely argue, but his stats are only slightly better than Refsnyder’s, and with less MLB experience.

As a baseball fan, it’s sometimes difficult to separate personal feelings for a player from the bigger picture for the organization as a whole. Truthfully, I cannot imagine Torreyes, or even Kozma, being a disaster as a backup infielder. In fact, either of them could prove to be very successful in that capacity.

Even as an emotionally invested fan, I could understand the logic of choosing either Torreyes or Kozma – but are they really that much better than Refsnyder? Does Kozma, signed to a minor league deal as a veteran player, have more potential than a young player ready to make his mark? Is Torreyes, with less MLB experience but slightly better stats, a more dependable choice than Refsnyder, who the Yankees already know?

I could fully understand choosing someone other than Refsnyder if they were undoubtedly better, but neither of these players are. It’s simply another example of the Yankees changing course on Refsnyder’s development, and setting unrealistic expectations for him along the way. If the Yankees aren’t going to let him play, they need to let him go. He’s shown he can do it, and continually holding him back isn’t helping anyone.

Let’s all hope whoever wins the job proves beyond any doubt that they were the right choice.

No Tanaka on Opening Day…?

Spring training hasn’t even officially started, and there is already panic about Masahiro Tanaka’s arm.

Earlier today, news broke that Tanaka said he wasn’t sure whether or not he would be ready to pitch on Opening Day. As soon as I read the headline, I knew there would be panic from Yankee fans, and doubts about his status as an ace from everyone around baseball.

When asked about his first regular season start today, Tanaka said:

“Can’t really say. We’ll take it day by day. I feel that I can’t really talk about that at this point. I just want to see myself go into the bullpen, get the innings in and see how I feel.”

It is his first day in Tampa – his first workout since the offseason. What is so wrong with that?

Yes, the Yankees made a huge investment in Tanaka (7 years $155 million, plus a $20 million posting fee) and yes, they expect him to be an ace. We already know about his partial UCL tear, trips to the disabled list in 2014 and again in 2015, and he underwent surgery to remove a bone spur from his throwing arm this offseason. I understand fans concern about Tanaka. I understand fans frustration about what we’ve seen from Tanaka during his first two seasons in MLB.

I, too, would love for Tanaka to put the injuries behind him and be the ace the Yankees expected him to be when they signed him. But for right now, it’s entirely too early to judge his upcoming season. Likewise, it’s entirely too early to panic about his arm.

Regardless of whether or not he had surgery in the offseason, this is Tanaka’s first workout after the offseason. No pitcher is going to feel 100% ready to go on Opening Day after one workout. Spring training doesn’t even officially start until Thursday for pitchers and catchers. There are a lot of workouts and a lot of throwing for Tanaka (and all the pitchers) between now and Opening Day.

There are many factors that will go into deciding when Tanaka is ready to make his first regular season start. There are doctors, trainers, management, and even Tanaka himself who will all have a say in when he’s ready to pitch. For the amount of money the Yankees have invested in one arm, I don’t blame them for being cautious – and they’ve shown they’re not afraid to rest him when needed. Being overly optimistic about his Opening Day status right now is of no benefit to anyone.

Had Tanaka said this a week before the regular season, this would be an entirely different situation. We are just under a week until spring training starts. As much as we all want baseball back right now, there are still several weeks to go.

Before fans lose faith in Tanaka or raise your blood pressure worrying, ask yourself this: Would you rather Tanaka rehab properly and pitch well this year (Opening Day or not), or rush his rehab just to pitch Opening Day and suffer a worse injury later?

The answer is simple to me.

Followup on my 2015 Wishes

Prior to the start of last season, I considered each probable starter for the Yankees and made one wish for the upcoming season. Now that we’re rapidly approaching a new season and the dust has settled from the previous season, it’s time to see which Yankees lived up to my (completely unimportant) expectations.

THE PITCHERS

Masahiro Tanaka “That the arm holds up. Let other teams speculate about your health and distract their focus against you.”

Notice my hope was only about the health of his arm – not his contract, his performance, or whether or not he’s an ace. Tanaka did start more games (24) than he did last year (20), and as a result pitched more innings (154.0) than he did last year (136.1), including one of only two complete games thrown by Yankee starters in 2015. He had one trip to the DL which lasted from 4/28/15 to 6/05/15. (The year before, Tanaka was out from 7/6/14 to 9/21/14.)

Verdict: He pitched more, was injured less, and his arm did not fall off. Good!

Michael Pineda “Keep up the good work, Big Mike. And if you want to wear your hat a little straighter, I won’t complain.”

There were good days (Mother’s Day, when he struck out 16), and there were meh days (too many to mention). We saw a lot more of Pineda this year after his return from injury (160.2IP compared to 76.1IP last year), but yet only one example of really good pitching immediately comes to mind.

Verdict: …at least there was no pine tar!

CC Sabathia “Have a better season than I’m fearing you’ll have.”

I was really hard on CC – and I mean really hard. I predicted a loss every time he started because I was so confident opposing hitters would destroy him. For the first part of the season, that was true; in the first 24 games of the season he was 4-9 with a 5.27 ERA. Then came the blessed knee brace! In his final 5 starts of the season, Sabathia’s ERA dropped to 2.17 – much more like the workhorse we’re used to. He is now 35 years old and has thrown 2988.2IP and recorded 2,574K in his 15 year career. This was a difficult year for Sabathia personally and professionally, but even if his body wasn’t performing as he wanted it to, his heart was always 100% in it.

Verdict: Glad the end of the season was more like the old CC – and knee brace for MVP!

Nathan Eovaldi “Be that young pitcher no one expects to be great, and then dominate opposing teams.”

There’s a big difference between playing for the Miami Marlins, and playing for the New York Yankees. For example – Eovaldi had a 6-14 record in 2014 with the Marlins, and a 14-3 record this past season with the Yankees. His ERA in 2014 and 2015 are roughly the same while his starts and innings pitched were down slightly in 2015 due to injury. The numbers that really stood out to me were his 175 hits (down from 223), 72 runs (down from 107), and 72 ER (down from 97).

Verdict: He didn’t exactly dominate, but he’s a work in progress, and seems to be progressing well.

Adam Warren: “Be consistent and pitch well – there’s a reason you won this rotation spot – and don’t be one of the pitchers we have to worry about.”

Remember when Adam Warren was a starter? Those were my favorite Adam Warren days! I was fortunate enough to see two of his starts in person – one a narrow defeat and one a win. Of course later in the season Warren was moved to the bullpen where he proved to be just as effective. There was a certain amount of comfort in having him out there if a starter totally tanked (and not that Chris Capuano ever did…) because we knew he could give length. Or a spot start. Or really, whatever the Yankees asked of him, because he would do it. And he would do it well, and always without complaint.

Verdict: If anyone met and exceeded all my hopes for 2015, it was Adam Warren. I’ll miss him in pinstripes, but wish him tons of success with the Cubs.

THE INFIELDERS

Brian McCann (C): “You’ve had a year to settle in to a new environment – now it’s time to take advantage of Yankee Stadium’s right field.”

There isn’t a huge difference in McCann’s stats in 2014 compared to 2015. He only hit three more HRs, but he did have 19 more RBIs. He had 20 more strikeouts, but also drew 20 more walks. He’s projected to have roughly the same kind of numbers for 2016.

Verdict: I’m not sure we can expect much more from Brian McCann as we’ve seen the last two seasons. That being said, I’m not at all disappointed with him.

Mark Teixeira (1B): “Don’t be stubborn: teams are going to shift, especially when you outright say you won’t try to beat the shift.”

For quite awhile early this season, it seemed like Tex’s approach to beating the shift was just to hit everything right over the shift. It didn’t seem to matter where anyone was standing on the field – he was just going to hit the ball right out of the park, probably yelling “I’ll show you!” as he rounded the bases.

Verdict: This is, by far, the most hilarious example of being proven wrong I can think of from this season!

Stephen Drew (2B): “Crack .200 for your batting average and look like you can play 2B.”

What an odd player Stephen Drew turned out to be. I’m not sure anyone in baseball history has ever hit 17HRs while only hitting .201 for the season (of course he had to add that extra .001 to his average, just to spite me). As for his fielding, I have to give him credit for switching positions after age 30. He’s demonstrated versatility playing 2B, SS, and 3B during the season, as well as having some (very random) power at the plate. He could be a very good utility infielder for the Nationals this year.

Verdict: He just barely broke .200 before he was shut down for injury the rest of the season. He certainly wasn’t the best 2B in MLB last year, but he also could have been a lot worse.

Didi Gregorius (SS): “Don’t get rattled by replacing one of baseball’s biggest stars on one of the largest stages in the world.”

I’ll admit I was hard on Didi early in the season. He had a bit of a rocky start with a mental errors (working with a former Gold Glove shortstop helped), but showed great improvement as the season went on.

Verdict: Do we all love Didi yet? I think we all love Didi!

Chase Headley (3B): “Keep the good New York momentum going.”

In his nine years in MLB, Chase Headley has made 83 errors at 3B. In the first eight years of his career, he had never made more than 13 errors in a single season (2010) and even won a Gold Glove with the Padres in 2012.

During the 2014 season, I was extremely judgmental of anyone who tried to play 3B – mostly because they were “replacing” my favorite player, but also because they were pretty terrible. When Headley came to New York, it was like a breath of fresh air. Finally, there was someone competent who could play 3B – and then he signed a four year contract as a free agent. Things were good!

But then came the 2015 season, and a career high 23(!!) errors. At times, I wondered if the Yankees might actually get better defense from 40 year old Alex Rodriguez.

Verdict: Biggest disappointment of 2015.

THE OUTFIELDERS

Brett Gardner (LF): “Be that gritty player who flies under the radar and leaves teams wondering “Where the hell did that guy come from?””

Gardner always has a rough second half of the season. At this point in his career, I’m not sure that will ever change. One thing I absolutely love about Gardner is that he always, always gives it all he’s got. He doesn’t often get the recognition he deserves, especially for someone who had to fight just to play college baseball and is now an everyday player for the New York Yankees.

Verdict: Gardy finally got the recognition he deserves, being selected to his first career All Star game at 31 years old.

Jacoby Ellsbury (CF): “Steal a ton of bases – and maybe another steal of home.”
Bonus wish: “Have a ridiculously good game against the Red Sox. Just explode offensively and defensively, and silence those Red Sox fans who claim they’re happy you left Boston.”

Early this season, I really thought it was going to be Ellsbury’s year – he started the season hot. In the first month and a half of the season, he hit .324 with 48 hits, 29 runs scored, and an impressive 14 stolen bases. Every time I turned a game on, he was running – and it was like a dream come true. This is the Jacoby Ellsbury I wanted to see!

When things seem too good to be true, they often are. On May 19, Ellsbury sustained a right knee injury and spent May 20 through July 8 on the disabled list. As luck would have it, he injured his knee in the first of two games in Washington, and of course I had tickets for the second game. (It wasn’t all bad news though – I was there for Slade Heathcott’s MLB debut!)

For the rest of the season, Ellsbury was okay. Average. Definitely far less exciting than he started the season. There was no amazing game against the Red Sox either.

Verdict: If I could only judge Ellsbury’s season up until May 19, it would be a big success.

Carlos Beltran (RF): “Do something to make me excited you’re on the team?”

Beltran and Sabathia are similar in that I really expected zero from either of them. The difference between the two is that I actually feel bad for judging CC so harshly. I’m still not wildly impressed with Beltran.

In all fairness, his bat did heat up later in the season and often at key moments of the game. But the defense was terrible. Every joke about Beltran riding a Rascal around right field were completely justified. Outs turned into hits. Running looked nothing short of pathetic. At this point in his career, Beltran probably is best suited as a DH, but on this current roster, it’s just not possible.

Verdict: The excited moments were few and far between, but there were a few.

THE DESIGNATED HITTER

Alex Rodriguez (DH): “Don’t blow it.”

Remember when Alex Rodriguez returning from his suspension was the worst thing that could ever happen to baseball? We’ve come a long way.

Over the past year, he’s shown tremendous growth personally and professionally. We saw a man who, at forty years old, finally seems to be comfortable in his own skin – and proved he can still play professional baseball after spending the better part of the last two years watching from a distance. He has said and done all the right things, allowing many people to forget just how much they hated him just a year ago.

Verdict: No words could accurately express how happy I am to see this version of Alex Rodriguez.

 

The regular season starts in just a few short weeks! Hopefully, I’ll have a whole new list of hopes and dreams for this year’s team. Stay tuned!