Saturday Links: Gardner, Deadline, Ardizoia, Portalball

The bros in the front row dig Gardner's cleats. (Presswire)
The bros in the front row dig Gardner’s cleats. (Presswire)

The Yankees and Twins do not continue their three-game series until later tonight, so here are some links to help you pass the time.

Gardner Warned, Not Fined For White Cleats

Last weekend, Brett Gardner wore a set of white cleats during a game against the Mariners, which is against the league’s uniform rules. Apparently the Yankees have to wear cleats that are at least 51% black. Gardner had the cleats left over from the All-Star Game and CC Sabathia urged him to wear them in the game. Bryan Hoch says Gardner was warned by both MLB and the Yankees, but he wasn’t fined for the uniform infraction.

“I don’t think anyone came to my locker and took them, but I won’t be wearing them again. That was a one-time thing. I definitely got several warnings on that already — unofficial and official from the bottom all the way to the top,” said Gardner. Sabathia said he would have paid the fine since he talked Gardner into it. It’s silly, but the rules are the rules. Kinda funny to see Brett rebel like that.

Gardner Wins Heart & Hustle Award, Again

For the fourth time in the last six years, Brett Gardner has won the Yankees’ Heart & Hustle Award. Each team gives out the award annually to a “current player who not only excels on the field, but also best embodies the values, spirits and traditions of baseball.” All 30 winners can be seen right here. Gardner also won the award in 2010, 2013, and 2014. He is now eligible for the league-wide Heart & Hustle Award. The winner will be announced after the season.

MLB Will Consider Pushing Back Trade Deadline

Earlier this week, commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters MLB will consider pushing the trade deadline back from July 31st. The second wildcard has created a ton of parity and not every team is ready to sell at the end of July. Pushing the deadline back to, say, August 15th or 30th could beef up the market. Here’s what Manfred said, via Brendan Kuty:

“I think the July 31 deadline is something that we may want to revisit in the context of the revised playoff format,” Manfred said during an appearance at the Beyond Sports United symposium at Prudential Center. “Obviously when you have two additional opportunities to be in the playoffs, you have more teams in the hunt and they may want to wait a little longer before they make decisions.

“On the other hand, we want teams, the core of which have been together for the year, playing in the postseason so you have to just balance those two issues, I think.”

While I understand pushing the trade deadline back may be beneficial, I don’t love the idea. For starters, you’d be acquiring even less of a player if you make a deadline deal. Acquire a starter on July 31st and you get about 12 starts out of him. Push the deadline back a few weeks and you get what, eight starts? Maybe ten? Also, this could potentially hurt the bad teams legitimately looking to sell because clubs could wait longer to see who becomes available. I dunno, July 31st seems to work well. It’s basically the two-thirds point of the season. Heaven forbid teams have to decide whether to go for it by then.

Rugger Ardizoia, Oldest Living Yankee, Passes Away

Rinaldo “Rugger” Ardizoia, the oldest living Yankee, recently passed away at age 95 following a stroke, reports John Shea. Ardizoia was born in Italy, immigrated to San Francisco with his family when he was an infant, and played for the Yankees in 1947 after spending three years in the army. He appeared in just one MLB game, throwing two mop-up innings in a 15-5 loss to the St. Louis Browns. Here’s the box score. Ardizoia spoke to Louie Lazar about his playing career earlier this year. Condolences to his family and friends.

Eddie Robinson, 94, is now the oldest living Yankee according to the best available research. Robinson played most of his 13-year career with the Indians but did wear pinstripes from 1954-56. He was the team’s primary first baseman during that time.

"No, really, it's called Portalball." (Presswire)
“No, really, it’s called Portalball.” (Presswire)


Believe it or not, Joe Girardi has an app coming out next month, reports Dan Barbarisi. Girardi had a hand in designing the game and wanted something family friendly he could share with his kids. “It was just an idea that we could do with families. Kids connect on phones, and they connect with parents on phones. I know I text my kids a lot, and they respond quickly. It’s just another way to have connection with family,” he said. Here are the details from Barbarisi:

In Portalball, which appears to be set against the backdrop of an alien invasion of Earth, players compete in one of three phases of the game—hitting, pitching, and fielding—to deal with the portal invaders. As in the promotional video featuring Girardi and his fiery bat, players will bat, pitch, and field their way to success against their friends using balls flying in from portals all around them.

The game uses augmented reality technology, meaning that it takes over the phone or tablet’s camera and projects the image that the phone sees onto the phone’s screen. Users then play Portalball against that constantly shifting background, with portals opening seemingly out of the walls, ceilings, and floors of the room around them.

Alrighty then. Barbarisi says the original plan was to create a more traditional baseball game, but the app developer and Girardi tossed around a bunch of ideas and eventually decided on the sci-fi theme. Sounds neat, though I never play games on my phone, so I doubt I’ll be downloading Portalball. Just not my thing. The app will be available next month.

Saturday Links: Trade Talks, Draft Picking Trading, Forbes

Irrelevant photo is irrelevant. (Presswire)
Irrelevant photo is irrelevant. (Presswire)

The Yankees and Angels Mariners continue their weekend series a little later today, so, until then, here are some links to help you pass the time.

Yankees already engaged in trade talks

This is no surprise, but assistant GM Billy Eppler confirmed the Yankees are already having trade conversations with other teams during a recent radio interview. The trade deadline is two weeks from yesterday. Here’s what Eppler said, via Brendan Kuty:

“I know (Brian Cashman) has been having conversations with clubs, will continue to have conversations with clubs. We kind of check in. I’ll check in with some counterparts and our scouts out in the field will have some conversations here and there and just kind of keep their ears open. Our antennas are up. There will be some conversations. And Cashman will have those conversations regarding what we might be able to do. He’ll take those to ownership. But often times the seller is the one with the leverage and it’s generally a seller’s market with an extra wildcard added in. There’s less players. Less clubs that are out there. So that shrinks your player pool and raises the acquisition costs of guys. And a lot of time the opportunity just doesn’t present itself.”

The team’s needs leading into the trade deadline are pretty obvious: pitching depth and a second baseman, preferably. I’m glad they’re giving Rob Refsnyder a chance right now, but I don’t feel too comfortable rolling with him as the everyday second baseman in a pennant race. Another right-handed bat for the bench would make sense too. Given their position in the standings and the fact the Yankees haven’t been to the postseason since 2013, I expect them to be aggressive at the deadline. The other four AL East teams are begging New York to run away with the division.

Trading draft picks will be discussed for next CBA

Over the All-Star break, commissioner Rob Manfred told Eric Fisher he would like teams to have flexibility by allowing them to trade draft picks. He expects that to be part of talks during the next round of Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations following the 2016 season. Right now only Competitive Balance Lottery picks can be traded. Only small market and low payroll teams get those.

I’m curious to see how trading picks would work. They’d have to limit it to the first round or something like that, right? Maybe the first three rounds? If teams were allowed to trade every pick, I’d ask for a 30-something rounder in every trade. Why not? Free lottery ticket. The Competitive Balance Lottery picks that have been traded the last few years have been traded for small-ish returns — relievers, mid-range prospects, etc. I’m curious to see how, say, a top five pick would be valued in a trade.

Yankees rank as second most valuable franchise in sports

According to the latest Forbes rankings, the Yankees are currently the second most valuable sports franchise in the world at $3.2 billion. Only Real Madrid ($3.26 billion) is worth more, though the Dallas Cowboys are tied with the Yankees are $3.2 billion. Barcelona ($3.16 billion) and Manchester United ($3.1 billion) round out the top five. The Dodgers rank second overall at $2.4 billion and are the second most valuable baseball franchise. Here’s the blurb from Kurt Badenhausen:

The Yankees lead a group of 12 MLB teams, up from six last year, in the top 50. Credit the massive influx of TV money, both nationally and locally, for soaring baseball values. The Yankees were one of the first teams to recognize the importance of TV with their launch of the YES Network in 2002. It has been the most-watched regional sports network in 11 of the past 12 years. Yankee Global Enterprises retains 20% of the RSN with Fox owning 80% after upping their stake in 2014.

The value of the Yankees is up 28%, and the team moved up two spots to tie for second place. The 27-time world champions missed the postseason for the second consecutive season in 2014 and only the third time since 1994, but the Bronx Bombers still finished tops in the American League in attendance, averaging 42,520 fans per game. The Yankees generated $676 million in revenue before deducting for $90 million in revenue-sharing payments and $78 million in bond payments that go towards stadium debt.

The Yankees don’t have a Mariano Rivera or Derek Jeter retirement tour to lean on for a late-season attendance bump this year, but they are absolutely in contention, so that will help. There’s still an entire second half to go right now, but returning to the postseason is not a pipe dream, it’s a legitimate possibility. That will only improve the franchise’s value. The Yankees are a money-making machine. I truly believe the Steinbrenners will not sell the team, but, if they did, could they get $5 billion?

Saturday Links: Castro, A-Rod, Draft, Ibanez, Heredia

Starlin ... and Manny! (Presswire)
Starlin … and Manny! (Presswire)

The Yankees and Red Sox continue their three-game series later tonight. So, until then, here are some spare links I had lying around to hold you over.

Start the Starlin Castro rumor mill

According to Jon Heyman, several executive are speculating the Yankees will pursue Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro due to his connection to Jim Hendry, currently a special assistant with New York who was the Cubs GM when the team signed (and called up) Castro. Just to be clear, Heyman is passing along speculation, not a hard rumor that the Yankees are pursuing Castro.

Anyway, I wanted the Yankees to acquire Castro in the offseason to play shortstop, so of course he is hitting .249/.282/.323 (63 wRC+) on the season. (Reminder: Don’t ever listen to me. I’m awful.) Castro is still only 25 though, and he did hit .292/.339/.438 (115 wRC+) just last year, so it’s not like there’s nothing to like here. There’s about $43M left on his contract through 2019 with a club option for 2020.

Castro is seen as a change of scenery guy — the Cubs surely want to put Addison Russell at short — but he’s not a shortstop, his defense is terrible, so maybe the Yankees look at him for second base. If so, the move would probably wait until the offseason. I doubt they’d throw him to the wolves defensively and make him learn second on the fly a la Stephen Drew last year. Either way, my guess is we’ll hear lots more about the Yankees and Castro in the coming weeks and months.

The real cost of A-Rod‘s 3,000th hit ball

Last week, the Yankees agreed to donate $150,000 to Pitch In For Baseball in exchange for Alex Rodriguez‘s 3,000th hit baseball. Noted ballhawk Zack Hample caught the ball and leveraged it into a big fat donation for a charity he supports. Good for him. Of course, there’s much more to this story. Hample told Shawn Anderson the Yanks gave him a ton of other stuff in exchange for the ball as well:

“The Yankees have given me all the things they initially offered, such as meeting A-Rod, doing a press conference at Yankee Stadium, being interviewed live during the game on TV and the radio, and receiving signed memorabilia and free tickets, including tickets to this year’s Home Run Derby and All-Star Game in Cincinnati.” Hample told The Hall exclusively. “I will also have opportunities to write for Yankees Magazine, get a special behind-the-scenes tour to the most restricted areas of the stadium that no one in the public gets to see, get to meet the players, and more. There are certain things I’ve been asked not to talk about, so I need to respect that.”

Geez, that was one mighty valuable baseball, huh? Give Hample props for holding out for the donation rather than taking all that cool free stuff and running. That’s probably what I would have done.

2015 Draft signing updates

Morris. (Indiana Daily Student)
Morris. (Indiana Daily Student)

The signing deadline for the 2015 draft is next Friday, and the Yankees recently signed both UC Santa Barbara C/RHP Paddy O’Brien (24th round) and Indiana RHP Christian Morris (33rd). Morris announced his signing on Twitter while O’Brien is currently listed on the Rookie GCL Yanks2 roster. No word on their bonuses but I assume they didn’t receive more than the $100,000 slot for picks after the tenth round. O’Brien was a catcher in college who the Yankees are apparently going to try on the mound because he has a strong arm.

By my count the Yankees have signed 33 of their 41 draft picks, which is an unusually large number. Teams usually sign something like 25-30 picks each year. The Yankees will make it 34 of 41 when they sign UCLA RHP James Kaprielian (1st) next week — Jim Callis backed up Heyman’s recent report and says Kaprielian will get an overslot bonus in the $3M range — which I’m confident will happen. The Yankees have a bit more than $3M to spend before getting hit with penalties and there’s nowhere else to spend it — the late-round overslot candidates probably aren’t going to sign at this point — so that money either goes to Kaprielian or Hal Steinbrenner.

Rangers sign Andy Ibanez

Earlier this week the Rangers signed free agent Cuban infielder Andy Ibanez to a minor league contract worth $1.6M, reports Jeff Wilson and Jesse Sanchez. Ibanez, 21, was cleared to sign way back in February but took his sweet time picking a team. The Yankees had him in Tampa for a private workout in May and were reportedly interested, though they were unable to offer him anything more than $300,000 once the 2014-15 international signing period ended a few weeks ago. Ibanez is a light hitting second baseman who was expected to get upwards of $15M, though it sounds like teams didn’t value him that highly. You have to think he would have topped $1.6M easily if clubs felt he was as good as the public scouting reports.

Cuban OF Guillermo Heredia cleared to sign

According to Ben Badler and Jesse Sanchez, 24-year-old Cuban outfielder Guillermo Heredia has been unblocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control and declared a free agent by MLB, so he can sign with any team at any time. Heredia is not subject to the international spending restrictions because of his age, so the Yankees and any other team can offer him any amount.

Listed at 5-foot-11 and 180 lbs., Heredia is considered a good defensive center fielder with speed and a strong arm. Badler (subs. req’d) ranked him as the 11th best prospect in Cuba last August and said he has “similarities to a righthanded-hitting version of Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley,” which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement these days. Heredia will work out for scouts soon.

Saturday Links: A-Rod, Sierra, High-Def, Benefits, Girardi


The Yankees and Rays continue their three-game series with an Independence Day matinee at Yankee Stadium later today. Here are some links to help you pass the time until the game.

A-Rod wants to make the All-Star team

The All-Star Game rosters will be announced soon — the starters will be announced tomorrow night, the rest of the rosters Monday night — and Alex Rodriguez told Andrew Marchand he hopes to be selected for the Midsummer Classic. “From where I came from just a year ago — I mean it’s every player’s dream to make the All-Star Game, I’m not exception to that, especially with all that I’ve been through — to be able to be included in something like that, it would be incredibly special,” said Alex.

As productive as he’s been this season, I don’t think A-Rod will be selected for the All-Star Game. Kendrys Morales is running away with the fan voting for the DH slot and both Nelson Cruz and Prince Fielder have better All-Star cases than Alex. (Cruz has actually played more outfield than DH this year.) You can only carry so many DH types on the roster. Oh well. A-Rod will turn 40 later this month and he could probably use the four days off to recharge his batteries. He’s been to 14 All-Star Games anyway.

Cuban RHP Yasiel Sierra threw for scouts

Time to meet the latest Cuban player the Yankees won’t sign. According to Kiley McDaniel, 23-year-old Cuban right-hander Yasiel Sierra threw for scouts yesterday and is generating positive buzz. McDaniel likens Sierra to Reds righty Raisel Iglesias, who signed a seven-year contract worth $30M last June. Sierra worked mostly as a reliever in Cuba and had a 3.74 ERA with 166/135 K/BB in 238 career innings before defecting. He is not subject to the international spending restrictions due to his age, so the Yankees can offer him any amount despite the penalties stemming from last year’s spending spree. I know nothing about Sierra beyond what’s in this post, but I suspect we’ll read his name a few more times in the coming weeks.

Yankees to be first team shot in 8K ultra-high def technology

I’m not a big technology guy, so I don’t quite know what this means, but Maury Brown reports the Yankees-Mariners game at Yankee Stadium on July 17th will be the first game shot in 8K ultra-high definition. Apparently 4K high-def is just making its way to consumers now. The 8K broadcast of the Yanks-Ms game won’t be available for fans though — Japanese public broadcaster NHK will install the cameras and show the broadcast to the media in a suite at the game. They’re testing the technology for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. (Might be time to take to advantage of my BBWAA membership!) Either way, I’m sure 8K will be available for fans soon enough, and it’ll blow all our minds.

Dugas. (
Dugas. (

Benefits to being on the MLB roster

A few days ago the Yankees surprisingly called up outfielder Taylor Dugas just so he could sit on the bench while Carlos Beltran was dealing with a sore ribcage. Sitting on the bench knowing you’re going to sent back down in a few days stinks — Dugas was sent down yesterday, sure enough — but being added to the 40-man roster and spending even one day in MLB comes with major perks, as MLBPA director of communications Greg Borris explained to Brendan Kuty.

First and foremost, the player gets the pro-rated portion of the $507,500 minimum salary, which works out to $2,773.22 per day during the regular season. Dugas was making approximately that per month in the minors. Players are also entitled to a portion of the MLBPA’s licensing program revenue (baseball cards, video games, etc.) and they start accruing service time towards pension benefits. And finally, the big thing is health care for them and their families. They get access to the league’s high-quality yet affordable health care program for life after just one day in the show. Getting called up for a day might sound disappointing, but man, the benefits are as good as it gets.

Cashman on long-term deals, scout on Girardi

Going to wrap this up with a pair of quotes that caught my eye earlier this week. First, here is Brian Cashman talking to Marchand about long-term contracts:

“Money doesn’t always equate to performance,” Cashman acknowledged. “In fact, most of the time it will never equate. That’s the cost of doing business. Signing a player to a long-term contract is like buying a car. They don’t tend to get better with age, and the ones that do are probably cheating.”

Ain’t that the truth. The Yankees have several bad long-term contracts on the books right now but it’s clear they’re willing to live with the ugly back end for the production up front, or at least they were at one point. These days it seems like teams get fewer high-end years early in long-term contracts though. They’re the Yankees though, they’re never going to not be involved with big name players, and Cashman understands they tend to be really bad investments.

Now here is an anonymous scout speaking to Jerry Crasnick about Joe Girardi:

“I don’t care what anybody says: It’s hard to manage [in New York]. It’s a zoo. You couldn’t pay me enough to manage there. I don’t know if he’s a top-five manager. But Girardi doesn’t get enough credit for the job he does.”

I think Girardi is an average-ish in-game manager. He’s very good at keeping his relievers fresh and putting them in positions to succeed, but he does slave to platoon matchups and is a little too rigid with his pitcher-inning assignments. That makes him no different than any other manager though.

Girardi really seems to do well with limiting distractions and running a healthy clubhouse, which is something we as outsiders can’t possibly understand or appreciate. The A-Rod stuff could have been a total fiasco for example, yet it’s blown over and been a non-factor. You never hear about players being unhappy — example: Adam Warren going to the bullpen — and stuff like that. On-field decisions are just a small part of a manager’s job. Most of their responsibility is in the clubhouse managing personalities, and the fact that things are so quite around the Yankees (the Yankees!) suggests Girardi is a great manager of people.

Saturday Links: Six-Man Rotations, A-Rod, Franco

(Scott Halleran/Getty)
(Scott Halleran/Getty)

I’m not sure if Andy Pettitte was hanging around the team last night or if he’ll be back this weekend, but he was in the clubhouse in full uniform on Thursday, and he tossed batting practice before the game. Pretty cool. Anyway, the Yankees and Astros continue their series later his afternoon. Here are some links to hold you over until game time.

Do six-man rotations work?

The Yankees are currently employing a six-man rotation but only temporarily — Joe Girardi said they are likely to go back to a normal five-man rotation once the road trip ends next week. The team has been talking about using a six-man rotation since before Spring Training and baseball as a whole seems to be heading in that direction. I don’t think it’ll be long before six-man rotations are the standard around MLB. Maybe ten years or so.

Russell Carleton did some research on six-man rotations to see if they are actually worth the trouble. Does it improve performance? Does it reduce injury? What happens if you have an ace like Clayton Kershaw and don’t want him to make five fewer starts in a season? After some gory math, Carleton found that most pitchers don’t see an uptick in performance with an extra day of rest and their injury risk isn’t reduced substantially. Unexpected!

That doesn’t mean a six-man rotation isn’t worth trying though. It just means historical data indicates the benefits may not be as great as they seem. Every pitcher is different though. Perhaps a six-man rotation greatly benefits Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda. Or maybe it helps Tanaka and does nothing for Pineda. Who knows? Carleton’s research just shows that a six-man rotation may not be as great everyone seems to think.

Yankees still negotiating for A-Rod‘s 3,000th hit ball

It has now been one week and one day since Alex Rodriguez took Justin Verlander deep for his 3,000th career hit, and, according to Dan Martin and Brendan Kuty, the Yankees are still trying to get the ball from ballhawk Zack Hample. The two sides have made “significant progress” after the team initially offered a package of tickets and memorabilia.

Hample says he wants the Yankees to “perhaps make a large donation” to Pitch In For Baseball, a charity that provides baseball equipment to kids around the county. “I could sell the ball at an auction for a lot of money and then turn over the money to the charity. I’ve certainly been hearing from a lot of auction houses,” he said. “This is a big chance to do something extraordinary for (the charity).”

Using the milestone baseball to help charity rather than for personal gain is an honorable thing. Of course, Hample has spent the last few days trolling A-Rod on Twitter and going on a media tour, so he’s milking his 15 minutes for all they’re worth. Hopefully A-Rod gets the ball, a charity gets a lot of money, and Hample stops pushing kids out of the way for baseballs. That way everyone wins.

Maikel Franco: Almost a Yankee

Earlier this week Phillies infielder Maikel Franco made a bit of a name for himself by wrecking the Yankees, going 6-for-12 with three home runs in the three-game series at Yankee Stadium. I won’t dub him a Yankees Killer based on one series, but yeah, he crushed them. Impressive showing by the kid. The Phillies are really bad but Franco is a definite bright spot and a reason for fans to tune in every day.

As Dan Barbarisi writes, the Yankees tried to sign Franco as a 17-year-old out of the Dominican Republic back in 2010, but fell $5,000 short of Philadelphia’s offer. The Phillies offered $100,000 and the Yankees offered $95,000. “I was very close to signing with the team—my agent told me which teams wanted to sign me, and the Yankees were up in that group,” he said. Only if Hal Steinbrenner wasn’t so stupid and cheap Franco would have been a Yankee argh!!!

Except that’s not really how this works. For starters, no one cares about this if Franco does 2-for-12 in the series. Second, we can’t assume he would have signed with the Yankees had they simply matched the offer. Franco might not have liked the idea of joining a team with a first baseman and third baseman signed until the end of time. Third, every team falls a few grand short of signing players every year. And sometimes those players get good. That’s baseball.

Sunday Links: Harper, McCann, Old Timers’ Day, Draft

(Mike McGinnis/Getty)
(Mike McGinnis/Getty)

The Yankees and Orioles wrap up their three-game series later this afternoon. Until then, here are some miscellaneous links to help you pass the time.

Future Yankee Bryce Harper?

It was inevitable. When the Nationals visited the Bronx to play the Yankees last week, Bryce Harper was asked about his hardly imminent free agency and whether he would consider signing with the Yankees. Harper grew up a Yankees fan because of his father, a big Mickey Mantle fan, and famously said he wants to “play in the pinstripes” in his 2009 Sports Illustrated feature.

“I enjoy playing for the Nationals,” said Harper to Dan Martin last week, astutely avoiding the question about the Yankees. “We try to win a World Series, just like every other team. If I could bring that back to DC, bring that back to the city, that’s what I want to do. I’ve said it for a long, long time. That’s something that I want to do … We have such a great team here. I look at every single day as a new day. I go in and have the same mentality. DC is a great place to play. It’s a monumental town.”

Harper won’t be a free agent until after the 2018 season, when he will still be only 26 years old. He’s already one of the best players in the game and figures to be in position to smash contract records when he hits the open market a la Alex Rodriguez in 2000. Sure, the Nationals have one of the wealthiest owners in sports and could sign Harper to an extension at some point, but Giancarlo Stanton set the bar at $325M, and I’m sure Scott Boras will look to top that with Harper. (Stanton signed his deal at roughly the same service time level Harper will be at after the season.)

It both is and is not too early to look ahead to Harper’s free agency. It is early because geez, it’s still three and a half years away, but it isn’t because Harper is so talented and will be such a hot commodity. He’s a can’t your eyes off him superstar in every way. Buster Olney (subs. req’d) recently wrote it “would be shocking if Harper isn’t wearing a Yankees uniform on Opening Day in 2019,” in fact. Most of the team’s huge contracts will be off the books by then and the Yankees will be in position to go huge for Harper, who might command 12 years and $400M+ come 2018.

(Jason O. Watson/Getty)
(Jason O. Watson/Getty)

How McCann stopped popping up

During his first season with the Yankees, Brian McCann was a pop-up machine, hitting weak fly ball after weak fly ball, which resulted in a disappointing .232/.286/.406 (96 wRC+) line with a .231 BABIP. All those weak fly balls were easy outs, hence the low BABIP. McCann has been one of the team’s best hitters this season though, coming into the weekend with a .264/.327/.447 (122 wRC+) line that is right in line with the 121 wRC+ he put up during his healthy seasons with the Braves from 2009-13.

How did McCann improve this year? He stopped popping up, as Eno Sarris explains. McCann credits former hitting coach Kevin Long for some mechanical adjustments late last season. “Last year, for whatever reason, my hands weren’t taking a direct route to the ball,” said McCann to Eno. McCann averaged about 4.0% infield pop-ups from 2006-03, but that jumped to 5.0% last year, and it doesn’t take into account all the weak fly balls to the outfield. This year he’s down to a 0.8% pop-up rate (!), one of the lowest in the game. Fewer pop-ups, more hard contact, better McCann.

Old Timers’ Day attendees announced

Earlier this week the Yankees announced the list of former players, coaches, and personnel who will attend Old Timers’ Day next Saturday. Here is the full list. No Derek Jeter, no Jorge Posada, no Andy Pettitte, and no Mariano Rivera. Also no Mike Mussina or Hideki Matsui either this year. Lame. Oh well, it’ll still be fun. The Yankees will honor Willie Randolph with a plaque in Monument Park that night as well.

Several 2015 draft picks en route to Tampa

According to his Twitter feed, LHP Jeff Degano (2nd round) traveled to Florida earlier this week, which usually indicates he has a deal in place and will sign soon. Bryan Hoch and Jeff Hartsell say 3B Donny Sands (8th) and LHP James Reeves (10th) will turn pro as well. Also, RHP Kolton Montgomery (16th) and 1B Kale Sweeney (29th) told ABC 4 Sports and Norm Sanders, respectively, they are signing with the Yankees and will report to Tampa. The team’s mini-camp for draftees actually started Thursday, so these guys are probably already in uniform working out.

And finally, scouting director Damon Oppenheimer confirmed to Chad Jennings the Yankees will sign RHP Alex Robinett (32nd). Robinett is a second lieutenant and a staff ace at West Point, and will have to finish his military commitment after playing this summer. “Hopefully we can keep him in some kind of baseball shape when he’s able to finish that commitment and come back after serving his country,” said Oppenheimer. Earlier this season Cardinals righty Mitch Harris became the first military academy graduate to play in MLB in nearly a century.

Law’s team-by-team draft breakdowns

Keith Law posted his AL and NL draft reviews earlier this week (subs. req’d). He didn’t hand out grades or anything like that, just said which picks he liked and didn’t like. Law says the Yankees “wanted a bat with their first pick, but all the candidates went before them,” which is what I wondered the other day. He also says Degano has “first-round stuff, but slipped because he hadn’t pitched in more than two years due to Tommy John surgery and will turn 23 this fall,” and that RHP Drew Finley (3rd) “was a steal.” The Yankees reportedly had interest in Finley for their supplemental first round pick, the 30th selection, but they were able to get him with the 92th pick. Neat.

Also make sure you check out Draft to the Show’s review of New York’s draft class.

Saturday Links: Stottlemyre, Betances, Didi, Mock Drafts

Stottlemyre during his playing days. (Presswire)
Stottlemyre during his playing days. (Presswire)

Once again, the Yankees are playing a Saturday night game this week, though at least this one is on the East Coast. Including tonight, their next three and four of their next five Saturday games are night games. Blah. Anyway, here are some links to hold you over until the Yankees and Angels resume their series later tonight.

Mel Stottlemyre Battling Cancer Again

Former Yankees pitcher and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre is again battling cancer, reports John Harper. The 73-year-old Stottlemyre was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer, while on Joe Torre’s staff back in 2000, and he was told he only had 3-5 years to live. He’s outshot that projection by a decade, but the cancer returned in late-2011 and he has been undergoing treatment since.

“It’s been tough because so much of my life is controlled by doctors, by the cancer. And the side effects of the treatment have been nasty, there’s no getting around it. But I’m determined that I can beat this thing. There are times when I have my doubts but it’s not going to get me down,” said Stottlemyre to Harper. Among the side effects from the medication are heart and thyroid conditions, and a form of diabetes. He also has an Achilles tendon issue, but can’t undergo surgery due to chemotherapy.

Despite the cancer and the treatment, Stottlemyre said he is going to try to make it to Yankee Stadium for Old Timers’ Day later this month. “I want to be there in the worst way,” he said. His wife Jean said they are going to try to attend as well, though the travel from their home in Washington might be too much. Either way, let’s hope for the best for Stottlemyre, a longtime cancer survivor who is trying to do it again.

Betances Gets Pointers From Rivera

Earlier this season, when Dellin Betances was really struggling with his command, the big right-hander got some pointers from Mariano Rivera, writes Kevin Kernan. “Towards the beginning of the season when I was struggling early on, Mo told me a couple of pointers that really helped,” said Betances. “He told me he felt like my front shoulder was flying open and he offered some tips. I dropped the shoulder a little bit to stay within a straight line and have a good direction towards home, and I think that has helped me be more successful and more consistent.’’

Betances said Rivera also reminded him to “stay locked in and have confidence,” even while struggling. “Hearing that from him makes such a difference. I’ve been able to use that advice to my advantage,” he added. Dellin’s numbers since his early-April struggles are insane — he went into last night’s game with five hits and six walks allowed in his last 24 innings, with 43 strikeouts. Bonkers. Somehow Betances has been even better than last year. If only Rivera’s words had that much of an impact on everyone.

Gregorius Gets Pointers From A-Rod, Beltran

(Ezra Shaw/Getty)
(Ezra Shaw/Getty)

Meanwhile, the Yankees have turned to two current veteran players to help shortstop Didi Gregorius, who has improved at the plate lately but has struggled overall. In addition to hitting coach Jeff Pentland and assistant hitting coach Alan Cockrell, both Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran have been helping Gregorius in recent weeks, reports George King. “Alex and Carlos had a big hand in talking to Didi,’’ said Pentland.

“You have to have the same approach in the batting cage that you do in the game, and that was something that was missing to me. He is the guy who has to go out and do it. Hopefully he has found something to work with,” said Beltran, who added he considers helping young players part of a veteran’s job. Both Beltran and A-Rod encouraged Gregorius to be “more selective in the (strike) zone” as well. This is the second time Rodriguez has lent a hand coaching Didi — he worked with him at shortstop a few weeks go.

Yankees Invite Whitley For Private Workout

According to Dan Zielinksi, the Yankees had New York HS OF Garrett Whitley in for a private workout before Monday’s draft. (Whitley said he worked out for the Braves and Brewers as well.) I’m not sure if the workout took place in Yankee Stadium or in Tampa, but that doesn’t really matter. Here’s my profile on Whitley, a projected first round pick and one of the highest upside players in the draft. Pre-draft workouts are not uncommon but teams don’t invite just anyone either — they’re usually reserved for players clubs have significant interest in, and, more than anything, the workout is so more members of the brain trust can see the player, including the higher ups. There’s no word on who else the Yankees brought in for a pre-draft workout.

Baseball Prospectus’ Mock Draft v2.0

Over at Baseball Prospectus (subs. req’d), Chris Crawford posted his second mock draft yesterday, and, like everyone else, he has the Diamondbacks taking Vanderbilt SS Dansby Swanson with the first overall pick. That’s not set in stone just yet, but it sure looks like Arizona is leaning in that direction. Crawford has the Yankees selecting Whitley and California HS C Chris Betts with their top two picks, 16th and 30th overall, respectively. Here’s my profile on Betts. (The Whitley profile is linked above.) The Yankees have been connected to both players for weeks now. There’s a decent chance Whitley will be off the board by time that 16th pick comes around, but Betts should still be available.’s Mock Draft v4.0

Meanwhile, Jim Callis posted his latest mock draft yesterday as well. He also has the D’Backs taking Swanson with the top pick. As for the Yankees, Callis has them picking UCLA RHP James Kaprielian and Betts with those 16th and 30th overall picks, respectively. Here’s my profile on Kaprielian. (Again, the Betts profile is linked above.) Callis says the Yankees “want a college pitcher,” but we’ve also heard they want a bat, so who really knows. This draft is very deep in right-handed pitchers, both high school and college, so the best available player for that 16th pick could easily be an arm.

Four Players To Attend 2015 Draft

According to MLB, four players will be at the MLB Network studios for the draft broadcast on Monday: Whitley, Florida HS SS Brendan Rodgers, Indiana HS RHP Ashe Russell, and Pennsylvania HS RH Mike Nikorak. Rodgers is a likely top five pick — he was a candidate to go first overall, but apparently the D’Backs want a quick moving college player — while the Yankees have been connected to the other three guys at various points these last few weeks. Here are my profiles for Russell and Nikorak. Look up a few paragraphs for the Whitley profile. It would be pretty neat if the Yankees drafted a kid who was actually in the studio, wouldn’t it?

Ibanez Changes Agents

Free agent Cuban infielder Andy Ibanez recently changed agents, according to Ben Badler. Ibanez left Praver Shapiro Sports Management and is now represented by Relativity Sports. He has been eligible to sign since February, but Badler says Ibanez is likely to wait to sign until after July 2nd so his bonus (and penalties) get pushed to the 2015-16 signing period. The Yankees have shown some interest in Ibanez, a 22-year-old light hitting/good fielding second baseman, but if he waits until July 2nd, they’ll have no shot to sign him. Part of the penalties for last year’s international spending spree is a bonus cap of $300,000 during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 signing periods, and $300,000 won’t be enough for Ibanez.