Saturday Links: Randolph, Strength of Schedule, Yankees for Sale

(NY Daily News)
(NY Daily News)

The Yankees continue their Grapefruit League season this afternoon with a road game against the Rays. We’ll have a regular game thread up a little closer to first pitch. Until then, here are some random links to help you pass the time.

Randolph still looking for a coaching job

It has now been five years since former Yankee Willie Randolph held a big league coaching job, but as he told Brendan Kuty, he’s still trying to find one. Randolph, who interviewed for the Yankees third base coach job prior to last season, last coached with the Orioles in 2011. He was their bench coach for half the season and their third base coach for the other half. Here’s what Willie told Kuty:

“I let everybody know I’m doing my due diligence,” he told NJ Advance Media in the Yankees’ clubhouse at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Thursday. “Let everybody know I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth.”

“What makes it hard to keep it out there is that there’s so much of a change of the guard,” Randolph said. “So many new kids out there, that even if you keep it out there — they know who you are. There are baseball people who are going to know who I am.

“My resume speaks for itself. It wasn’t that long ago when I managed. But there seems to be a comfort zone with some of these cats. I get it. That’s part of the game. It’s who you knows, who might sponsor you, who you’re comfortable with.”

Randolph, now 61, managed the Mets from 2005-08. He was on the Yankees coaching staff from 1994-2004, spending most of his time as the third base coach but also some as Joe Torre’s bench coach. Randolph managed Team USA in the inaugural Premium 12 tournament last fall and he’s currently in Yankees camp as a guest instructor.

Teams are skewing younger with their managers and coaching staffs these days (the Yankees are no exception), so I understand Randolph’s frustration. There’s no way this won’t sound like a knock on Willie, so I’ll just say it: I’m of the belief that if you haven’t coached in five years or managed in eight years, there’s probably a reason why. If a team felt Randolph could be an asset on their field staff, he would have been hired. Teams know him. He’s not flying under the radar or anything.

2016 Strength of Schedule

Each year, Jeff Sullivan at FanGraphs calculates each team’s strength of schedule using projections. It’s not perfect — projections themselves are far from perfect, plus rosters change throughout the season — but it’s a nice ballpark number. The Yankees have the second toughest schedule in the AL this year, about a win more difficult than average. That means the Yankees are expected to win one fewer game against their schedule than they would the average schedule. Make sense?

The Orioles have by far the toughest schedule in the league at two wins below average while the Indians have the easiest at a win above average. Most teams are within a half-win of average. The Mets and Nationals have the two easiest schedules in baseball by a huge margin. They’re both at two wins better than average. That’s what happens when you get to play 54 games — exactly one-third of the 162-game schedule — against the Braves, Phillies, and Marlins.

MLB submits proposal for new Cuban player signing system

According to Ben Strauss, MLB has submitted a proposal to the Treasury Department outlining a new system that will allow Cuban players to sign directly with big league teams. This would provide a safer path to the big leagues for players since they’d no longer have to defect, and the plan includes a way to raise money to improve youth baseball in Cuba. From Strauss:

Under the proposed plan, according to M.L.B.’s top lawyer, Dan Halem, an entity made up of Cuban entrepreneurs and officials from baseball and its players’ union would be created. A percentage of salaries paid to Cuban players would go to the new body, which would function like a nonprofit organization and support youth baseball, education and the improvement of sports facilities in Cuba.

Because no money would go directly to the Cuban government, the plan could satisfy the embargo. A few months ago President Obama said he intends to normalize relations with Cuba and this could be an important step in that direction. MLB has been working with both the U.S. and Cuban governments behind the scenes to find a way to allow Cuban players to come stateside safely and legally.

The Rays are scheduled to play an exhibition game against the Cuban National Team in Havana on March 22nd. They’ll be the first MLB team to play in Cuba since the Orioles in 1999. Derek Jeter and Joe Torre are among the dignitaries who will be on the trip. Luis Tiant and Jose Cardenal will be there as well.

The Yankees are for sale (kinda)

An unnamed minority owner is selling a 1% share of the Yankees, reports Scott Soshnick. The price? A mere $24M. Documents associated with the sale indicate the team is worth somewhere in the $2.75 billion to $3.25 billion range. That’s the team only. It doesn’t include the YES Network or Legends Hospitality. The Yankees and MLB would have to approve any sale, because duh.

Minority owners sell some or all of their shares all the time, so there’s nothing unusual about this. Hal Steinbrenner recently said the family has no plans to sell the team — they’re actually working on a long-term plan to hand over control to the next generation of Steinbrenners — and this won’t change anything. I have to say, 1% of the Yankees for $24M seems like a pretty good investment given how healthy the game is financially. We should start a Go Fund Me.

Open Thread: March 11th Camp Notes

The Yankees beat the Orioles 7-1 earlier today. It was New York’s first Grapefruit League win since Saturday. The Orioles are still winless this spring (0-10-2), by the way. Masahiro Tanaka looked very sharp in his second spring start, allowing only an infield single in three scoreless innings. He fanned three. Chasen Shreve retired all four men he faced and looked pretty darn good himself.

Jacoby Ellsbury had two hits and Didi Gregorius had three. Mark Teixeira smashed a double while Alex Rodriguez, Brian McCann, and Chris Denorfia had one single apiece. The Yankees scored all seven runs with two outs. Pretty nice day for the bats. Here’s the box score, here are the video highlights, and here are the day’s notes from camp:

  • Slow day at the complex today. Michael Pineda, James Kaprielian, and Ivan Nova threw bullpen sessions and Jacob Lindgren faced hitters in a simulated game. Lindgren was originally scheduled to pitch in this afternoon’s game, but he ended up pitching in Wednesday’s extra innings game against the Mets, which threw his schedule out of whack. [Chad Jennings]
  • The upcoming rotation: Luis Severino (Saturday on TV), CC Sabathia with Pineda coming out of the bullpen (Sunday on TV), Monday is an off-day, Nova (Tuesday on TV), and Nathan Eovaldi (Wednesday on TV). [Bryan Hoch]
  • Brett Gardner (wrist) is tentatively scheduled to play in his first spring game next Wednesday. He’s going to take some live batting practice in the coming days. [Ryan Hatch]
  • Among the players scheduled to make tomorrow’s 100-mile road trip to Port Charlotte to play the Rays are Carlos Beltran, Dustin Ackley, Aaron Hicks, Gary Sanchez, Jorge Mateo, and Rob Refsnyder. [Jennings, Hatch]
  • The Yankees haven’t said anything official, but I have to think the first round of roster cuts is coming soon. Other teams are already making cuts, and soon the regulars will need more playing time. Tomorrow might be our last chance to see Mateo until next spring.

This is the nightly open thread. This afternoon’s game will be replayed on YES after tonight’s Nets game, so figure it’ll start at 10-10:30pm ET, somewhere around there. MLB Network will show a bunch of non-Yankees games on tape delay throughout the night. The Knicks (and Nets) are playing, and there’s lots and lots of college hoops on the schedule as well as we approach the tournament. Talk about anything here except politics and religion. Please and thank you.

Ivan Nova’s Contract Year [2016 Season Preview]

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Ivan Nova has spent pretty much his entire career in someone else’s shadow. Coming up through the minors, he was always stuck behind more highly regarded pitching prospects like Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, and Manny Banuelos. Then when he broke into the big leagues, he was behind guys like Phil Hughes and Michael Pineda. Even David Phelps at times.

This season Nova came to camp as the second oldest of the team’s six starting pitcher candidates — only CC Sabathia is older — and he isn’t even assured a rotation spot. He’s coming back off a yucky 2015 season (5.07 ERA and 4.87 FIP) that started late because he was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. The poor performance and the injury could be connected, of course. Then again, Nova was healthy in 2012, when he had a 5.02 ERA (4.60 FIP).

Nova is entering his age 29 season and his sixth big league season, and I still feel like we have no idea who he really is. Is Nova the guy who pitched so well in 2010 (3.70 ERA and 4.00 FIP) and 2013 (3.10 ERA and 3.47 FIP)? Or is he the guy who stunk in 2012 and 2015? Is he a fastball-slider pitcher or a fastball-curveball pitcher? He’s alternated breaking balls over the years too. Nova’s a mystery.

The 2016 season is Ivan’s last year before free agency, so it’s fair to call this the biggest season of his life. A good season along the lines of 2010 and 2013 will equal a handsome payday next winter. A poor season like 2012 and 2015 means Nova will probably find himself looking for a one-year contract to re-establish value. That’s a lot of pressure, and I can’t imagine it helps that he came to camp as the sixth starter. This is a tough spot.

That said, I’m pretty sure Nova’s going to end up making a bunch of starts this season. Upwards of 20-25, even. No team goes through a season using only five starters these days, and the Yankees carry even greater injury risk in their starting five than most teams. Heck, the Yankees go out of their way to use a sixth starter. At some point someone is going to get hurt and Nova will step into the rotation. It’s going to happen. Baseball is a son of a bitch like that.

The question is can Nova give the Yankees quality innings and put himself in position to land a nice payday after the season? When he’s been at his best, Ivan combined an average number of strikeouts with an above-average number of ground balls. Last year his strikeouts were down (15.3%) but his grounders were fine (49.0%). He also had close to no platoon split when at his best. Nova never did get enough credit for having success against both righties and lefties earlier in his career.

Last year though, left-handed batters tattooed Nova for a .311/.375/.524 (.387 wOBA) batting line. They struck out only 9.1% of the time too. Yikes. He was fine against righties (.300 wOBA and 21.6 K%) but lefties were unforgiving. Looking at the heat map of his pitch location against lefties, it appears he was a little more over the plate last season than he was in 2013, his last full season before Tommy John surgery:

Ivan Nova vs. LHB

The heat maps are from the catcher’s point of view and you’ve got 2013 on the left and 2015 on the right. You can click the image for a larger view. All the red is in the lower left corner, which means Nova threw most of his pitches to lefties down and away. That’s good. There were some more pitches out over the middle of the plate last season, which could be the cause of his problems or nothing at all. It could be sample size noise.

The book on Nova has long been that he has good enough control (the ability to throw strikes) but below-average command (the ability to locate exactly where he wants), and he also lacks deception in his delivery, so hitters get a good look at the ball out of his hand. His stuff is good. Nova’s fastball moves and he can throw a nasty breaking ball when right. Even his changeup looks pretty good from time to time. He just needs be really fine because hitters see everything well.

At this point of his career, it’s unlikely Nova will alter his delivery to add deception or improve his command in a meaningful way. Not too many pitchers make major changes to their mechanics after five years in the show. Guys like Charlie Morton are the exception, not the rule. That said, it’s possible Nova will be more consistent with his delivery this season, as he gets further away from Tommy John surgery. He never blamed his 2015 struggles on the surgery but he did acknowledge his arm feels “lighter” this spring.

If Nova can repeat his mechanics and locate a little better this summer, it could have a big time impact on his numbers. He left way too many mistake pitches over the plate last season and he paid for everything. Nova never seems to get away with a mistake. Limiting those mistakes has always been the priority and it can be hard to do that when you’re breaking in a new elbow ligament. Ivan’s not the first guy to have problems after elbow reconstruction.

This is a big season for Nova personally. He stands to make himself millions with his performance. Nova is also pretty important to the Yankees as their inevitably-will-be-needed sixth starter. He’ll be further away from Tommy John surgery, which may or may not improve his location and his performance against lefties. As much as he frustrates me, part of me will miss Ivan if (when?) he leaves as a free agent. Hopefully his final year in pinstripes is his best yet.

Spring Training Game Thread: Tanaka, Take Two

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees gave us all a nice little surprise today. This afternoon’s game was not on the YES Network’s original spring broadcast schedule, but they decided to pick up the game at some point, so we’ll be able to watch Masahiro Tanaka‘s second Grapefruit League start today. Hooray for that. Nice way to start the weekend.

Tanaka, who is coming off offseason surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow, is scheduled for three innings and 45 pitches or so this afternoon. At this point Tanaka is no longer rehabbing. He’s a healthy starter preparing for the upcoming season. Tanaka is currently lined up to start Opening Day — with an extra day of rest between his remaining spring starts, of course — and that’s good news. He’s kinda important.

The Orioles made the 60-mile trip up from Sarasota for this afternoon’s game and they sent a roster that can generously be described as a skeleton crew. I wonder if they’ll get fined for not sending the required four MLB regulars. Here is the O’s lineup and here is the Yanks’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. 2B Starlin Castro
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. RF Aaron Judge
  9. LF Chris Denorfia
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

Available Pitchers: RHP Nick Rumbelow, LHP Chasen Shreve, RHP Vicente Campos, LHP Tyler Olson, and RHP Kirby Yates are all scheduled to pitch after Tanaka. RHP Johnny Barbato, RHP Nick Goody, RHP Mark Montgomery, and RHP Branden Pinder are the extra arms.

Available Position Players: C Gary Sanchez, 1B Dustin Ackley, 2B Pete Kozma, SS Tyler Wade, 3B Ronald Torreyes, LF Lane Adams, CF Slade Heathcott, RF Ben Gamel, and DH Carlos Corporan will come off the bench to replace the starters. C Santiago Nessy, C Eddy Rodriguez, SS Jorge Mateo, and OF Dustin Fowler are also available if necessary.

It’s a bit cloudy in Tampa but there’s no rain in the forecast, which is good enough for me. This afternoon’s game will begin a bit after 1pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB.tv anywhere. There are no local MLB.tv blackouts in Spring Training. Enjoy the game everyone.

Mailbag: Qualifying Offer, Judge, Teixeira, Mateo, Romine

There are 13 questions in this week’s mailbag. Remember to use the RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com email address to send us any questions throughout the week.

Qualifying offer getter. (Presswire)
Qualifying offer getter Jason Heyward. (Presswire)

Troy asks: What would you think of a proposal where you had different levels of qualifying offers? Perhaps something as simple as to get a first round draft pick the Qualifying Offer has to be a two or even three year offer at an AAV equal to the current requirement. A one year contract could result in a second or even third round pick. This would seem to distinguish between the top players and the middle of the road guys that get really hurt by the current system.

I like the idea. It certainly seems like it would work better than the current system. How’s this quick two tier proposal sound?

  • Tier One: Three-year contract with the average annual value set at the average of the top 75 salaries in MLB ($18.3M in 2015). Signing team gives up a first rounder and the losing team gets a supplemental first rounder.
  • Tier Two: One-year contract with the average annual value set at the average of the top 200 salaries in MLB ($13.1M in 2015). Signing team doesn’t give up a pick and losing team gets a supplemental second rounder.

That sound good? It’s similar to the old Type-A and Type-B system in that there’s two ways to get a draft pick but only one requires the signing team to surrender a pick. Only a handful of Tier One qualifying offers would be made each offseason. The elite guys would get them. That’s it.

I like this idea. Why should Ian Kennedy and Daniel Murphy get the same qualified offer as David Price and Jason Heyward? With this system the mid-range free agents wouldn’t having their market depressed by draft pick compensation, and their former teams would still get a pick, albeit one a round later. This could work.

Andrew asks: Do we have any stats on which Yankee position players (so everyone besides A-Rod and the pitchers basically) fare better when given a “1/2 day off” at DH? And does this, or if not should it, impact Girardi’s decision making when it comes to allocating which players to give these 1/2 days off.

We have stats for almost everything these days. Here are how the Yankees’ non-Alex Rodriguez hitters have performed as a DH over the last three seasons:

Player PA H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Carlos Beltran 359 73 17 0 12 40 31 69 .227 .298 .393 .691
Brian McCann 84 21 1 0 5 8 3 22 .266 .310 .468 .778
Mark Teixeira 38 7 1 0 1 5 6 7 .219 .342 .344 .686
Dustin Ackley 24 4 1 0 0 5 2 6 .182 .250 .227 .477
Jacoby Ellsbury 18 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 .111 .111 .111 .222
Brett Gardner 10 1 1 0 0 1 1 3 .111 .200 .222 .422
Chase Headley 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 .111 .200 .222 .422

Starlin Castro, Didi Gregorius, and Aaron Hicks have not played a game as the DH at all over the last three years. Aside from Beltran, we’re talking about only a handful of plate appearances spread across several years, so I would just ignore the stats all together. Teixeira hitting .219 in his last 38 plate appearances as a DH doesn’t tell us much of anything.

Most of Beltran’s DH plate appearances came in 2014 (312 of the 359, to be exact), when he couldn’t throw because of the bone spur in his elbow. He’s on the record saying he doesn’t like to DH, and while the numbers back that up, we have to remember he was playing with the bone spur most of those plate appearances. The numbers are skewed because he wasn’t healthy.

When it comes to giving players a half-day off as the DH, I’m not sure looking at these numbers is all that helpful. The pitcher on the mound is going to impact things in any individual game more than the player’s DH history. I wouldn’t think about it too much. The sample sizes are too small to tell us anything useful.

Manuel asks: I think it is a bad idea to put young players in a lefty-righty-platoon. In my opinion they have to face their weaker split situation so they can improve. What do you think?

This is a decision that should be made on a case by case basis. You can’t have a blanket policy that covers all players because each player is different. Gregorius, for example, is someone you’d like to develop into a complete all-around player, so giving him reps against lefty pitching makes sense. On the other hand, if you have a corner outfielder who is no great shakes defensively, it might not be worth the effort to give them the at-bats against pitchers of the same hand. The reward’s just not that great. Take Tyler Austin for example. If he shows he can contribute as a platoon bat, that’s a good outcome at this point. It all depends on the player.

Dave asks: After Greg Bird went down, I was wondering if it might make sense to give Aaron Judge a shot at 1B. Given the backlog of outfield talent, if he starts mashing AAA early in the season, wouldn’t he be a valuable platoon at 1B? It seems he’s pretty athletic for his size, and would be a huge target with a ton of range. Seems like a fair number of OF (a la Nick Swisher) have done it. Any thoughts?

I don’t think you can change Judge’s development path — or any top prospect’s development path for that matter — because of an injury to another player. He’s physically enormous but he’s a surprisingly good athlete for his size, so he’s a solid outfielder defensively. Judge is no liability in the field. There’s no reason to make this move just yet. I’m sure it’ll happen in time though, as he gets older and slows down. It sucks Bird is going to lose a year to injury. It would suck even more if the Yankees moved Judge to less valuable position as a result.

(Also, Swisher was a first baseman in college who moved to the outfield in pro ball. He moved to the more valuable position, not the other way around.)

Patrick asks (short version): Mike, on Saturday I saw Teixeira hitting right-handed against a right-handed pitcher. I don’t know if it was discussed here or on TV, but is there a reason for this?

Steven Wright was pitching for the Red Sox that day and Teixeira hits from the same side of the plate against knuckleball pitchers. Teixeira also bats righty against R.A. Dickey and he actually hit a home run against Wright from the right side of the plate last year:

A few switch-hitters bat from the same side of the plate against knuckleball pitchers for whatever reason. I guess they see the ball better from that angle. Not every switch-hitter does it — Beltran hit a home run against Wright left-handed last year (video) — but some do. There was nothing special about Saturday. Teixeira’s not working on his righty swing or abandoning the left side of the plate. Nothing like that. He just always bats from the same side against knuckleball pitchers.

James asks: Have you heard any updates on people being able to purchase MLB.tv for only a single team at a reduced price?

Yes, you can buy single-team MLB.tv packages this year. Here’s the link. It’s $84.99 for the season, which is just high enough to get you to say “might as well buy the full package for $109.99.” The single-team subscriptions are still subject to local blackouts, so you can’t buy it in New York and expect to watch the Yankees or Mets. It’s for out-of-market fans only.

Sam asks (short version): Every Met starter but Thor has already had TJS … I’d be leery of long-term deals with these guys. If I were the Mets, I’d wait until each is 2 years from free agency, then begin negotiations. Even if you pay more year-to-year that way, you lessen the risk of big money tied to a blown-out elbow. Your thoughts?

I understand that sentiment and ultimately it comes down to the contract size and the team’s comfort in the player’s medicals. Risk vs. reward. All pitchers are an injury risk and some are riskier than others, including guys who have already had Tommy John surgery. Is the extra risk worth it for a pitcher of Matt Harvey’s caliber? Maybe! The Mets know his elbow better than anyone, remember. Given the team’s situation, I think it’s important for the Mets to gain cost certainty over their rotation for the next few seasons so their salaries don’t explode through arbitration. Buying out free agent years is a bonus. Guys who have Tommy John surgery do scare me. At the same time, if Nathan Eovaldi went to the Yankees tomorrow and said he’s take four years at $10M per season, would I want them to sign him? Hell yes.

Dan asks: Small Sample Size alert – last year Mateo hit 2 HRs total, and so far this spring he’s already hit one and another that just missed in 2 games. Was wondering if you have noticed any material changes to his swing or build? Wasn’t sure if there were any reports about him tweaking anything in the off-season.

He almost hit another homer Wednesday too, but it sailed foul. Jorge Mateo hit two home runs in exactly 500 plate appearances last year, and one of them was an inside-the-park homer (video), so he really only hit one ball out of the park. I haven’t heard anything about changes to his swing this spring, but he is a 20-year-old kid, so could have gotten stronger in the offseason. Also, Mateo has shown power in batting price — Baseball America (subs. req’d) said he has “above-average raw power evaluators see” in BP — so it’s in there. He just needs to refine his approach to tap into it. I haven’t heard anything about swing changes and I would tend to ignore the outcome of two random spring at-bats. Needless to say though, Mateo’s power output is worth monitoring going forward. If he starts mashing taters, good gravy.

Leah asks (short version): With infield shifts becoming much more prevalent in the game, it seems to me that the ability to play out of position is becoming a much more important skill. Going forward, will this sea-change impact prospect development and assessment in any significant way?

Teams have always looked at athleticism and the potential for a player to play elsewhere on the field, so I don’t think evaluation will change much. I do think it will impact development strategies though. The Yankees had Mateo work out at second base in Instructional League last year just so he could become familiar with the right side of the infield for shifts. A guy like Rob Refsnyder, who is learning third but has experience on the right side of the infield, could take to the shift well and that’s valuable. The Blue Jays used to put third baseman Brett Lawrie in short right field when using a shift because he was a former second baseman and familiar with that territory. The ability to play all over the field is more valuable than ever, and I think teams will begin putting in more time to teach players how to handle different parts of the field because of the shift.

Jason asks (short version): Assuming Didi keeps playing well or at least doesn’t regress over the next few years and Mateo progresses as he’s expected to, is there a scenario where Didi moves to third to make way for Mateo?

Sure, it could happen. I’d be more inclined to keep both Gregorius and Mateo on the middle infield to take advantage of their athleticism and defense, but if second base is not available, third is another option. Didi’s bat is probably a little light compared to what you would normally want from a third baseman, so I’m not sure if the Yankees will go for that. This is a question for another time, really. We’re a long way away from figuring out how Gregorius and Mateo can co-exist on the same roster.

Marc asks: Would it make the most sense to let Refsnyder begin the season in AAA where he can play regularly at 3B and 2B, with a little OF sprinkled in, for a month or so until he hits his way onto the ML roster? He could get some seasoning and develop into pretty valuable utility guy.

Ref. (Presswire)
Ref. (Presswire)

I don’t think Refsnyder has anything left to prove at Triple-A from an offensive standpoint. We know he can hit Triple-A pitching and it’s time to find out if he can hit MLB pitching. The third base experiment has thrown a wrinkle into this because you’d like to give him a few weeks of regular play at the position. That said, I think he’s ready to help the Yankees right now. It’s not like he’s going to play third base often anyway. I could go either way with this. I would understand if the Yankees wanted to send him to Triple-A for more third base work, and I would understand if they took him north and made him learn on the fly.

Eric asks: So I agree with your post saying the Yankees should go with Romine as the back up catcher and leave Gary Sanchez in AAA for 35 days for the sake of service time manipulation. I think it’s also fair to assume since Romine can become a free agent and catching depth in the league is so hard to come by that the Yankees will try and trade him. So without throwing any names out there (My Trade Proposal Sucks) what teams make sense for him, and what does the potential return look like?

The potential return would be close to nothing. The best case scenario seems like a George Kontos type — the Yankees traded Kontos to the Giants for Chris Stewart in 2012 — and I do mean the best case. In all likelihood it would be much less. Teams know Romine can elect free agency and they may decide to wait it out. As for teams that could need catching help, the Cardinals (if Yadier Molina’s thumb isn’t ready for Opening Day), Mets (if they decide to let Kevin Plawecki play regularly in Triple-A), and Brewers (if Jonathan Lucroy is traded) jump to mind pending those ifs. Catcher is a brutal position and it’s possible an injury will open up another landing spot for Romine, and that includes staying with the Yankees.

Sandeep asks (short version): If you could change the result of one play in Yankees history, what would it be?

Three plays immediately jumped to mind. One, Edgar Martinez’s double in 1995. Two, Luis Gonzalez’s single in 2001. And three, Dave Roberts’ steal in 2004. Those all happened in my lifetime, so they hit closer to home than, say, Bill Mazeroski’s home run in the 1960 World Series. Let’s talk those three plays out one at a time really quick.

Martinez double: If Edgar makes an out there, the Mariners are still down one run with runners on the corners and one out in the 11th inning. The next batter (A-Rod!) could have still tied the game with a fly ball. And even if the Yankees win that game, they only would have advanced to the ALCS, where they might get steamrolled by the Albert Belle led 100-44 (!) Indians. The Edgar double was the first time baseball crushed my soul.

Gonzalez single: The game was already tied at this point, so best case scenario is Mariano Rivera gets out of the inning — the D’Backs would have still had the bases loaded with two outs had Gonzalez struck out or popped out or whatever — and the game goes to extras with Randy Johnson on the mound and Rivera having already thrown two innings. (Mike Stanton pitched earlier in the game. I think Mike Mussina, who started Game Five three days earlier, would have been next out of the bullpen.) Maybe Mo’s error on Damien Miller’s bunt earlier in the inning is the play to change since it had all the look of a potential 1-6-3 double play:

Instead of having runners at first and second with no outs, Arizona would have had the bases empty with two outs. Even if Rivera only gets the force out at second — Miller was a 31-year-old catcher at the time, so he wasn’t flying down the line, a double play was a very real possibility — it’s still runner on first with one out instead of first and second with no outs.

Roberts steal: If Jorge Posada throws out Roberts, the Red Sox would have been down by one with the bases empty and one out in the ninth. Bill Mueller and Doug Mientkiewicz were due up. Rivera likely closes it out, the Yankees go to the World Series, and who knows what happens against the Cardinals.

Out of those plays, I have to go with Mo’s error in 2001. That’s the one I would change. Turn that error into a 1-6-3 double play and the Yankees are one out away — with the bases empty and the best reliever in the history of the universe on the mound, remember — from their fourth straight World Series title and fifth in six years. Yep, that’s the play. Someone go back in time and change that.

Open Thread: March 10th Camp Notes

The Yankees played two split squad games this afternoon and they won neither. They lost 11-4 to the Blue Jays at home in Tampa. Nathan Eovaldi started and looked great in his two scoreless innings. Andrew Miller allowed two runs on four hits in one inning, and Aroldis Chapman allowed one run on two walks and two hit batsman in two-thirds of an inning. It was Eovaldi’s and Chapman’s spring debuts. Carlos Beltran had two hits and Jonathan Diaz had a two-run homer. Here’s the box score and video highlights for that game.

A bit south in Sarasota, the other half of the Yankees played to a 4-4 tie in ten innings with the Orioles. Jacoby Ellsbury had two hits and Starlin Castro had three hits, including a double. Aaron Hicks also had a hit. Bryan Mitchell finished his three-inning outing very strong. He allowed just one run on an Adam Jones solo homer. James Pazos was charged with three runs (none earned) in two-thirds of an inning thanks to some defensively sloppiness. Here’s the box score and video highlights for that game, and here’s the rest of the day’s notes from camp:

  • Brett Gardner (wrist) took batting practice on the field again. He’ll soon face some real pitchers in live batting practice. CC Sabathia, Luis Severino, Michael Pineda, and Luis Cessa all threw their bullpen sessions as scheduled. [Chad Jennings]
  • Beltran and Alex Rodriguez held an impromptu base-stealing crash course for Gardner, Mason Williams, and some others yesterday. Beltran and A-Rod can’t run anymore, but they’ve both been highly successful base-stealers in their careers, so they have plenty to teach. [Ken Davidoff]
  • Masahiro Tanaka will make his second start of the spring in tomorrow’s home game against the Orioles. YES has picked up that game. Hooray for that. It wasn’t on the original broadcast schedule.

Here is your open thread for the night. Today’s home game against the Blue Jays will be replayed on YES at 7pm ET. The road game against the Orioles will be replayed on MLB Network at 6am ET tomorrow morning, for you early risers. MLB Network will air a different game on tape delay this evening. The Devils are the only local hockey or basketball team in action, though there’s a ton of college hoops on the schedule too. Have at it.