The Aaron Boone hiring shows Cashman’s priority in the manager search

(Al Bello/Getty Images)
(Al Bello/Getty Images)

The New York Yankees will hire their former player and ESPN analyst Aaron Boone to manage the team 2018 and beyond. While the Yankees bringing in a new skipper is a big story in itself, the selection of Boone seems to be a bigger one. There are a lot of questions that people are asking but this is the main one: why Boone over more experienced candidates (or non-candidates)?  Why take a risk on a newcomer in managing?

The manager interview group featured names of diverse experience backgrounds. We got Aaron Boone, who does not have any managing or coaching experience and had been an ESPN analyst since 2010. There was Hensley Meulens, who has been coaching since 2003 and earned three World Series rings with the Giants (and also the Kingdom of Netherlands WBC team). Eric Wedge previously managed the Indians and Mariners. Rob Thomson was a loyal soldier of the Yanks for 28 years and was most recently the team’s bench coach. Chris Woodward has been coaching since 2012 and is currently the Dodgers’ third base coach. And, of course, Carlos Beltran just wrapped up his prolific career so he joined Boone as a candidate who does not have any coaching or managing experience.

While coaching experience is a nice — and many would say essential — asset for managerial candidates, based on these names that the Yankees interviewed, it was not a big priority to Cashman.

While most of us don’t know Boone personally, there is information out there that paint a portion of him as a person First, he is well-liked. Many who know him raved about the hiring once it was announced. He is supposedly a great communicator and that might have been one of the major reasons why Cashman wanted to interview him. This article by Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News shows how well he delivers the message to others. It is an incredible story:

Back in 2003, due to strokes in both my optic nerves, I became legally blind and considered retiring for good…Corsoe, though, convinced me to give spring training a try and I agreed. The first day I walked into the Reds clubhouse in Sarasota, I stood at the door and looked around.

Everything was dark and fuzzy. Faces were blurred. I didn’t recognize players who I had known for years. Boone noticed me standing at the door with a perplexed look on my face.

He approached me and asked, “What’s wrong?” I told him what had happened, that I was legally blind, and that he probably wouldn’t see me again, that I was going home, I was about to quit.

He grabbed me by my elbow and led me to his locker stool, pointed to it and said, “Sit down.” I sat. And Boone said, “I don’t ever want to hear you saw the word quit again. You love what you do and you are good at it. Everybody in this room will help you when you need it.”

That’s the kind of communicator he is, the kind of passionate and compassionate person he is. Writers and players are water and oil. They don’t often mix. And I wrote my share of critical things about Boone. But he took the time to change a writer’s life, to save a career.

It may be one anecdote but it is also incredible, isn’t it? One story isn’t everything but many have acclaimed Boone for his ability to communicate and connect with others, which is a huge leadership skill.  Cashman stated that the main reason why he did not bring Girardi back is because of his inability to communicate well with younger players.

Whether that’s valid or not, it seems like Cashman felt he found someone who can connect with the clubhouse well. When asked about what he looked for in the next manager, Cashman said “There’s no perfect person that checks every box … (Communication is) one attribute of many. Some have more weight that others … (We want someone) who’s willing to push back and have open discourse … I’m looking for the right person regardless of age.” Take that for what you will.

Other things? I would think it helps that Boone is experienced with media. Being a Yankee manager is a whole different animal because of all the media attention and scrutiny that one faces on daily basis. Lastly, we know that Boone was pretty much born, raised and lived with baseball his whole life. We’re not talking about your neighbor Brad who played in high school JV team and now has a part-time job teaching kids how to swing. Boone is a third generation MLB’er whose older brother, Bret, also played for an extensive amount of time. Here’s a good read on that aspect. I’m willing to bet that, for what he lacked in coaching experience, he backed himself up with baseball smarts that’s been ingrained in his head for a long time.

Besides that, what other factors are out there?  Qualifying managerial candidates are tricky. Guys like Meulens, Woodward, Beltran, etc. were given an interview because they also were known to have skills that Cashman looked for in the next Yankee manager. But what pushed Boone to the top?

For baseball players, you can evaluate a good amount of skills by watching them on the field. Coaches and managers? You gotta dig deeper, especially into their mind. The manager is not a flashy job. Acquiring Beltran as a player would be much more exciting than Boone as a player, but that’s not how it works this time. A frustrating part of the past few weeks for the fans is that they are not given much detailed description of the candidates’ skills – because how do you even write out a “manager candidate scouting report” a la the players’ ones?

The people that get to know the best fit to the organizations are the ones that interviewed them (in this case, probably Brian Cashman) and that is all the public is given. And, from what we know, it was an intense, grueling 5-6 hour-long interview that covered many aspects.

We all know that not everything Cashman touches turns to gold. This move comes with risk and a guy like Boone will be tested by well-tenured opposing managers during games. At the same time, we all know that Cashman’s moves have revived the franchise into heavy playoff favorites for years to come – not to mention that he has the experience of running this franchise for almost 20 years. While it does not validate hiring Boone a hundred percent, the recent success gives him a bigger credibility in making crucial moves like this. Right now, this is the gist: Cashman is a smart guy who knew what he was looking for – and probably had the most access of the managerial candidate information.

The Boone hire, as it goes for many other baseball moves, is not foolproof. At this point, we don’t know how the Aaron Boone era of the Yankees history will go. Brian Cashman, who now seems to have more authority on team decisions than he’s ever had, made the call. How it unfolds, your guess is as good as mine.

Saturday Links: Cashman, Gardner, 2018 Caps, Pitch Clock


Shohei Ohtani’s shotgun free agency is now underway and it’s only a matter of time until we hear he’s started meeting with teams. Three weeks. Three weeks and this Ohtani stuff will all be over. Here are some random bits of news to check out in the meantime.

Cashman named Baseball America’s Executive of the Year

A few days ago Baseball America named Brian Cashman their 2017 Executive of the Year. That tends to happen when you nail your on-the-fly rebuild, and go from selling at the 2016 trade deadline to getting to within one win of the 2017 World Series thanks to your young players. From the write-up:

“For years the players worked in the minor leagues thinking, ‘If I play well I might get traded because I am blocked.’ Cash has changed that culture to the point now where young players not only develop as Yankees but have the goal of playing at Yankee Stadium and helping a championship club,” (vice president of baseball operations Tim) Naehring said.

That’s a pretty interesting quote. I always wondered what it was like to be a prospect in the farm system when the Yankees were doing nothing but signing free agents all those years. On one hand, do your job and someone will want you. On the other hand, it couldn’t have felt good knowing a trade was coming. Anyway, this is the first time Cashman has won Baseball America’s Executive of the Year award, which they’ve been giving out since 1998, his first season as GM.

Gardner wins Heart & Hustle Award

I missed this a few weeks ago, but Brett Gardner won the 2017 Heart & Hustle Award, the MLB Players Alumni Association announced. It is given annually to “an active player who demonstrates a passion for the game of baseball and best embodies the values, spirit and traditions of the game.” One player from each team is nominated for the award, then the winner is selected through a player vote. Pretty cool.

Gardner, who is the longest tenured Yankee and unofficial team captain, has been New York’s nominee for the Heart & Hustle Award on five occasions now, though this was his first time winning the award. The MLBPAA has been giving out the award since 2005 and Gardner is the first Yankee to win it. (Todd Frazier won it last year.) I gotta say, Gardner winning something called the “Heart & Hustle Award” is pretty damn appropriate.

MLB unveils 2018 spring and batting practice caps

A week or two ago MLB unveiled their new 2018 Spring Training and batting practice caps. Considering some of the wacky designs we’ve seen the last few years (those pinstriped brims, man), these are pretty normal. Here are next year’s Spring Training and batting practice caps:

Home on the left, road on the right. (New Era)
Home on the left, road on the right. (New Era)

I hereby dub the new designs: fine. They’re fine. Also, the new caps are made with a lightweight polyester material, not the usual polyester material they’ve been using for years and years. The new caps are 26% lighter, so that’s cool. The new caps are already for sale at New Era and

MLB pushing for a pitch clock in 2018

According to Buster Olney, MLB is pushing for new pace-of-play measures in 2018, including the implementation of a pitch clock. The league has to power to implement rule changes unilaterally now, though they prefer to come to an agreement with the MLBPA. Labor peace is good. The pitch clock is seen as inevitable — the plan is a 20-second pitch clock like the one used in Double-A and Triple-A, though they may settle for 22-24 seconds — and there’s also talk of limiting mound visits.

I don’t think pace-of-play is as much of a problem as MLB seems to believe — I worry the league is blaming too many of their biggest problems (i.e. cultivating young fans) on pace-of-play — but I do think it is something that can improved. Give me a pitch clock and fewer mound visits. I’m all for it. I have no problem whatsoever with four hour games as long as they’re exciting. When it’s nonstop mound visits and pitchers staring in to get the sign, that’s when it gets dull. The less the players are standing around doing nothing, the better.

Quick Notes: Managerial Search, Shohei Ohtani, Non-Tenders


This morning Brian Cashman took a practice run rappelling down the Landmark Building in Stamford as part of the annual Heights & Lights Festival. He also spoke to reporters and passed along two important pieces of information, one surprising and one not so surprising. Here’s the latest, via all the wonderful reporters in attendance.

Managerial interviews are over

First the surprising news: Cashman said the Yankees will not interview any more managerial candidates. The job will go to one of the six men they’ve interviewed: Carlos Beltran, Aaron Boone, Hensley Meulens, Rob Thomson, Eric Wedge, and Chris Woodward. (Mark Feinsand says a clear frontrunner emerged during the interview process.) Furthermore, Cashman said there will not be a second round of interviews in Tampa. The next step is making a final recommendation to Hal Steinbrenner and that’ll be that.

Also, interestingly enough, Cashman said he consulted Alex Rodriguez several times during the process. A-Rod didn’t want the job — “He never expressed interest in any way, shape, or form,” said Cashman — but Cashman said he got Alex’s insight on the various candidates. A-Rod and Beltran are super close. The fact this is all suddenly wrapping up, with the second round of interviews canceled, right after Beltran’s interview is intriguing. Coincidence? Maybe. But intriguing. Anyway, a poll:

Who should be the next Yankees manager?
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Yankees will pursue Shohei Ohtani

Now the not-so-surprising news: the Yankees will indeed pursue Ohtani, Cashman confirmed. They are prepared to let him both pitch and hit, which seems like a prerequisite for signing him. Here’s a snippet of what Cashman said about Ohtani:

“It’s a big stage here and it’s meant to have the best talent to play on it. Ohtani represents the next great talent that is available in the world of baseball. This stage is made for players like this … This is an impact type player that we feel would make us better. I think we have a great situation going on here with a lot of young players … I think he’d be a perfect fit for us.”

Ohtani was officially posted earlier today, and already there are some wild rumors floating around. He’s narrowed his list down to three teams! He doesn’t want to play with another Japanese star! I get the sense we’re going to hear lots more stuff like that over the next three weeks. For now, all we know for certain is that Ohtani has been posted, and Cashman said the Yankees will pursue him.

Yankees tender all eligible players

One last quick note: the Yankees tendered all their eligible players contracts prior to today’s deadline, the team announced. Can’t say I’m surprised. Austin Romine was the only real non-tender candidate and I never thought the Yankees would actually non-tender him, and they didn’t, so there you go.

Guest Post: “I Would’ve Played Third Base Left-Handed”: The Unexpected 1944 Home Run Champ

The following is a guest post from Adam Moss, who goes by Roadgeek Adam in the comments. He’s previously written guest posts on Tim McClelland, Frankie Crosetti, the No. 26, Casey Stengel, Leo Durocher, Miller Huggins, Jerry Kenney, the Copacabana incident, Mark Koenig, Earle Combs, Urban Shocker, Michael Milosevich, and Snuffy Stirnweiss.

Etten. (AP)
Etten. (AP)

Being a New York Yankee in 1943 was an unsure time. Most players knew it was inevitable that players would be drafted into the United States Armed Forces and serve abroad. By the beginning of the 1944 season, most players knew they were being drafted. Teams spent most of 1943 preparing for such a thing. The Yankees acquired players to replace bodies such as Buddy Hassett, Phil Rizzuto and Joe DiMaggio. As a result, 1944 had a lot of players win awards that no one would have picked. Hal Newhouser and Buddy Marion won the MVPs in their respective league that year. An outcast from the Philadelphia Athletics was a 1943 Yankees world champion and he is the subject of the story.

The Prussian Warrior

Nicholas Raymond Thomas Etten was born on September 19, 1913 in Spring Grove, Illinois, just off the Chain O’Lakes in McHenry County. His parents were Joseph Bernard (1883-1940) and Gertrude Mary Scheusen Etten (1883-1966). While little is known about his father’s family, there is quite the history behind his mother’s. Gertrude Mary Scheusen Etten is the granddaughter of Karl Ernst Du Sartz de Vigneul, a former member of the Prussian nobility. While the Du Sartz de Vigneuil nobility heritage came out of the Lorraine section of France, Dr. Sharon Koelling of Iowa State University noted that the family history dates back to the 17th century. Karl Ernst was disowned by the Prussian nobility when they disapproved of his marriage to a commoner, Catherina Niederprum.

A member of the Prussian Uhlan Regiment, Karl Ernst du Sartz de Vigneul was a warrior for the German cavalry in their military. After his death in the Rhineland city of Seffern in 1872, the widow Niederpaum and their nine children immigrated to Chicago, Illinois. One of their daughters, Anna Margaretha Du Sartz de Vigneul Scheusen was Gertrude’s mother. Gertrude was one of eight kids belonging to Du Sartz de Vigneul and Heinrich Scheusen. Nick Etten was one of three children for Joseph and Gertrude, with elder brothers Joseph Etten (1906-2004) and Hubert Etten (1908-1982) preceding him in birth.

Nick Etten was a three-sport star at St. Rita of Cascia High School in Chicago, located at 7740 South Western Avenue. There, he specialized in baseball, basketball and football. At St. Rita’s, he was a guard in basketball, a first baseman in baseball and right end for the football squad. Graduating from St. Rita of Cascia in 1931, Etten took his talents to Villanova University. However, at Villanova, he took his football talent to another level. Despite that football talent, Etten joined the Duffy Florals, a semi-pro team in Chicago during the 1932 season until Cletus Dixon, the manager signed him to a contract with the Davenport Blue Sox, passing up a four-year athletic scholarship at Villanova.

At age 19, Etten succeeded with the Class-B team in the Mississippi Valley League. In 114 games, he got 162 hits, 35 doubles, 4 triples and 14 home runs on his way to a .357 average and .544 slugging percentage for the Blue Sox. However, the Pittsburgh Pirates came calling for the Davenport outfielder in August 1933. At 6’1”, 195, he was a skinny player, and the Pittsburgh Pirates scout that discovered him, Carleton Molesworth, a former pitcher who appeared in three games in 1895 for the Washington Senators, thought that Etten’s speed was below average, something he would gain with experience. Molesworth considered him the best player prospect in the Mississippi Valley League and bought him from the team for more than $2,000 in cold hard cash.

Molesworth ended any intent of the outfield experiment continuing on from Davenport. During his time with the Blue Sox, Etten managed 12 errors in the outfield. The Pirates decided that Etten would move back to his main position of first base. Molesworth stated to the press that all opportunities would be made to get him to work out at first base. Molesworth was confident that Etten would be ready for the big leagues in two years and farmed him out appropriately. As part of the deal, Etten would stay with the Blue Sox through the end of the season, and the Mayor of Davenport, IA, George Tank presented the 19-year old with a traveling bag for joining the Pirates at Islander Field on September 11. Etten arrived at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field on September 18, the day they announced the signing of shortstop Elmer Trappe.

During Spring Training in 1934 for the Pirates at Paso Robles, California, manager George Gibson worked with Etten every day to improve his work at first base. The Pirate team of 1934 was already loaded, with Floyd Young, Paul and Lloyd Waner and Freddy Lindstrom on the team. That Spring Training, Gibson worked with Etten specifically on how to go around first base without tripping on his legs in order to make plays. Gibson stated that his 6’1” inch frame made him perfect for first base and would be a good alternate if Gus Suhr had a slow start. On April 5, 1934, it was announced that Etten would be on his way to Little Rock, Arkansas to play for the A-team Travelers as a first baseman.

In 1934, the season with the Little Rock Travelers was the first sign of things going backwards. After a great season with Davenport in 1933, the Travelers got a player with only 120 hits, 22 doubles, 4 triples and 2 home runs in 113 games. His batting line fell to a .291 average and.379 slugging, and things only seemed to look worse in 1935. In 1935, he jumped from the Elmira Pioneers, Birmingham Barons and Oklahoma City Indians, he managed all of a .264/.379 line with 108 hits, 22 doubles, 2 triples and an uptick to seven home runs.

The 1936 season was the fix. Demoted to the B-league Savannah Indians, Etten hit .329 and got 162 hits, 28 doubles, 10 triples and 12 home runs. It was enough to re-promote him to the A-ball Wilkes-Barre Barons. However, the prospect glow was gone from Etten. He spent the entire 1937 season with Savannah, hitting .304/.518 with 156 hits, 27 doubles, 10 triples and then-career high 21 home runs. By now, Etten was playing in the outfield once again. In 1938, he started the season with the Jacksonville Tars of the South Atlantic (B) League after two years with Savannah. Out of the Pirates organization, Etten batted .370/.516 with 193 hits, 15 triples and 2 home runs (along with 40 doubles) in Jacksonville.

Damaged Goods

The Philadelphia Athletics came calling in 1938. On September 1, 1938, Connie Mack purchased his contract from the Sally League and he would join the team in the majors as a first baseman. Mack got Etten his first game on September 8 against the Washington Senators. It was an eventful debut as a brawl broke out that day between Billy Werber and Buddy Myer. After Myer performed a knockout slide of catcher Harold Wagner, Werber took it upon himself to tell Myer where he can put his slide. The two went to fisticuffs and the fight was on. Umpire Bill Grieve tossed both for the rest of the event.

The next day, Etten got his first hit against Jim Bagby and the Boston Red Sox in a 4-3 win at Fenway. With the A’s in 1938, he played in 22 games, going 21 for 81, getting 6 doubles, 2 triples and no home runs while batting .259/.333/.383. For 1939, he started the season with the Athletics, managing a .252/.322/.406 line in 43 games with 39 hits, 11 doubles, 2 triples and three home runs. His first home run was off Bump Hadley of the Yankees on April 25, 1939 at the Stadium. After the game on June 10, he was optioned back out to the AA Baltimore Orioles. With the Orioles, he played 105 games, getting 115 hits, 25 doubles, 3 triples and 14 home runs, batting .299/.490.

In 1940, the Baltimore Orioles fell under the guise of a Philadelphia Phillies affiliation. As a result, the Phillies acquired Etten. That year, Etten managed a .321/.530 batting line with 185 hits in 160 games with the Orioles. He also hit 4 triples and 40 doubles. The power was slowly being discovered by Etten. 1941 became the first season in which Etten did not have to join the minor league teams. As the starting first baseman for the Phils, Etten hit .311/.405/.454 with 14 home runs, 4 triples, 27 doubles and 168 hits in his first full season. That year he finished 28th in the MVP voting. Etten returned in 1942 with the Phillies, playing in 139 games, but showing a clear decline. Etten hit .271/.355/.420 with 121 hits, 21 doubles, 8 home runs and 3 triples.

First base for the New York Yankees had been a mess leading into the 1943 season. In 1941, the Yankees had a rookie first baseman named Johnny Sturm (#34) from St. Louis. Despite the World Series ring in 1941, Sturm enlisted in the United States Army and served in World War II. He never saw another MLB game. He managed to injure himself in a freak tractor accident trying to build an Army baseball field, damaging his right index finger. He tried for a comeback in 1946, but injured his wrist and finished in the minors the rest of his career. However, he was the man who first recommended the Yankees look at Mickey Mantle. In 1942, the Yankees replaced Sturm with Buddy Hassett, a former first baseman for the Dodgers and Braves. Hassett was a god complimentary piece in 1942, but he went to the war effort leading into the 1943 season. He never played another MLB game after serving in the minors until 1950.

With the need to replace Hassett, the Yankees acquired Nick Etten on January 22, 1943. In return, the Yankees sent the Phillies $10,000 along with pitcher Allan Gettel and first baseman Ed Whitner Levy. However, the trade was not without controversy. William Cox, the President of the Phillies, took issue with the fact that Levy and Gettel would not be with the Phillies in 1943. As a result, the Yankees took back Gettel and Levy and sent Tom Padden and Al Gerheauser instead to the Phillies on March 26.

From Last to First

Leaving the dumpster bin Phillies did wonders for Etten. In his first season with the Yankees, batting seventh in the lineup, Etten took Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio’s #5 to a .271/.355/.420 line. He played all 154 games at first, getting 158 hits, 35 doubles, 5 triples and 14 home runs. He drove in 107 RBIs. In his only postseason opportunity, Etten had a miserable postseason, batting .105/.150/.105 in 19 at bats against the St. Louis Cardinals. Despite that, the Yankees won Etten his only ring in 1943. In 1943, he was one of four Yankees to finish in the top 10 of MVP voting. Spud Chandler won the award, Billy Johnson finished 3rd, Etten 7th and Bill Dickey 8th.

1944 was Etten’s time to shine. Coming into March, the Yankees expected that Etten would be the only member of the starting infield that would return for the 1944 season. However, in early March, during Spring Training, Etten, along with New York Giants star Mel Ott, were reclassified into Draft Class 1-A. Draft Class 1-A was the one that made people eligible for the draft. Manager Joe McCarthy noted that Etten was not expected to report until the summer for his examination.

However, the draft decimated the infield for McCarthy and the Yankees. Not only was Etten eligible, but Billy Johnson and Charlie Keller went to the Merchant Marines. During Spring Training, Bill Dickey was called to war and two days after Dickey, Joe Gordon went to war. Beat writers considered the race for the 1944 American League pennant as open as ever. McCarthy assembled a rag tag version of his infield to replace the ones fighting abroad: Etten at 1B, Snuffy Stirnweiss at 2B, Frank Crosetti and Mike Milosevich at SS, Oscar Grimes at 3B and a team of Mike Garbark and Rollie Hemsley at catcher.

Etten was on a torrid pace to start the 1944 season, heavily credited for keeping the rag-tag Yankees in the race for the pennant early on. By May 18, a month into the season, Etten hit a .354/.485/.494 line with 3 home runs and eight multiple hit games. By June 18, Etten had slowed to a crawl with his average falling below .300 on June 7. He also fell in the lineup. When the season started, McCarthy had Etten in the 3-hole. On April 30, when he was hitting well, McCarthy put him in the 4-hole. On June 11, McCarthy moved him to the 5-hole. He stayed there through the 4th of July, except for June 12 and June 13, when he was back in the 4-hole. For the four games after Independence Day, Etten went to the 6-hole. He never left 5th after that.

Late August and September 1944 were Etten’s best time for power. In a span of August 31 to September 16, the Yankees first baseman hit 6 home runs. From September 16 to September 27, Etten went on a 13-game hitting streak. However, Etten never saw .300 again, despite peaking on September 27 with a .297/.403/.474 batting line. After that, Etten’s bat went cold again, despite a 2 hit game on October 1. Etten’s final line: .293/.399/.466 in all 154 games.

The Yankees lost to the Browns and the Tigers in 1944 as the Browns went for the World Series and the Yankees went home. Despite that, Etten led the majors in home runs with 22. A feared power hitter, Etten led the league in walks (97) and intentional walks (18). He only had 4 triples and 25 doubles (numbers that went down from 1943). In day games (126), he hit .307/.420/.503; in night games (all of 28), he hit .236/.306/.309. Also a pure left-handed hitter, the splits were insane with a .308 average against righties and .235 against lefties. The 296 foot right field in Yankee Stadium benefited Etten enormously as he hit 15 of his home runs at home and 7 on the road. However, the splits between road and home in average were a lot more reasonable (.304 (home) and .283 (road)). Etten finished 23rd in MVP voting that season, tied with Rudy York.

1945 was a slightly backwards season, but not by much. His April and May 1945 were much the same as his April and May in 1944. Through May 18, Etten hit .321/.411/.500 as the starting first baseman. However, unlike 1944, the 1945 season did not fall off a cliff. Etten managed a .300 or higher batting average until July 1. During that streak, McCarthy put him back in the 4-hole. After a 4-hit game in Cleveland, Etten got his average back above .300, but it would not last. On August 25, Etten was put back in the 5-hole for good, and Etten finished the season with a .285/.387/.437 batting line in 152 games. However, in part due to his good season, he drove in a league-high 111 RBI with 18 home runs and 161 hits. Etten finished 1945 with a 15th place finish in the MVP race.

Statistically, 1945 was an unusual season for Etten, if compared to 1944. For a 1944 season where Etten looked bad against left-handed pitchers, his 1945 season is amazing. In 1945, he hit .333 against left-handed hitters versus .267 against right-handed hitters. At home versus away, he hit better away (.287) versus at home (.283). However, his power remained mostly at home (12-6). In another statistical flip, Etten hit .311 at night despite .281 at home (19-133 games ratio). It would be reasonable to say 1945 was his best overall season, despite the lowered power numbers. Either way, 1944 and 1945 were the best years of his career.

The End of Etten

1946 was another story. With the war effort over and Joe DiMaggio back, Etten switched to #9 and promptly hit like a 9-hitter. After beating out Buddy Hassett for the 1B job, Etten had a miserable April. By May 18, he had been demoted to 6th, re-promoted to 5th, and batting a clear .202/.291/.346 while playing 1B. On May 25, seeing Etten’s numbers start to fall, the Yankees promoted Stephen “Bud” Souchock from the minors to play 1st base. The next day, from the farm in Tonawanda, New York (where I live), McCarthy resigned his position as Yankee manager in a telegram.

His ugly season continued as McCarthy’s replacements had Etten pinch hit more than play 1B. Etten’s time in New York continued to dwindle with Souchock getting more playing time. In 108 games, Etten hit .232/.315/.365 with 49 RBI, 9 home runs and only 75 hits (drastic drops from one year ago). On April 14, 1947, the Yankees sent Etten back to the Phillies, but after having a miserable start to the 1947 season, they sent him back to the Yankees. With the Yankees, he played in the minors for the Newark Bears and Oakland Oaks of AAA. In AAA, he hit .256/.369/.439 in 93 games.

He had one AAA resurgence in 1948, playing for the Oaks, where he hit .313/.407/.587 in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. There, Etten hit 43 home runs for the Oaks in 164 games, with 181 hits, 155 RBI and 27 doubles. That was a career minor league season for Etten. He never repeated it. In 1949, he joined the Braves minors, playing in Milwaukee for their AA franchise and hit .280/.408/.454 in 148 games. In 1950, aged 36, he joined the White Sox and their Memphis franchise. There, he hit .313/.487 in the South Atlantic League.

With his career over, Etten retired to his home in Chicago. In 1953, Etten became a player agent for a Beverly-Morgan Park pony league. Home with his kids and his wife Helen Patricia at 10214 Oakley Avenue, Etten eventually became a contractor and part-owner for the Carroll Construction Company in Oak Lawn. He moved to Hinsdale, the community he lived in until his death. His son Nick Jr. became a football star himself in the Cook County area. He was soon inducted into the Chicago Sports and Catholic League Hall of Fames for his time in baseball as well as his success at St. Rita’s.

In 1982, he told the Chicago Tribune about his time with the Yankees and about wearing the iconic #5 while DiMaggio was gone. He noted that he would’ve played third base left-handed if necessary to be on the team. He also told the paper that in 1933 he played for a pickup team at Portage Park in Chicago in which he played three innings with a clown outfit on. He kept the paint on after the game until 63rd Street and Kedzie on his way home.

On October 18, 1990, Etten passed away in his home at Hinsdale at the age of 77. His wife, Helen Patricia along with his daughter Patricia and three sons, Nick Jr, John and Thomas along with one of his elder brothers all survived him. He was buried in the Queen of Heaven Catholic Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois. Helen Patricia Conway Etten died in August 1995 at the age of 79. His elder brother, Joseph Etten, died in 2004 at the age of 97.

Nick Etten’s career is another one, unfortunately, shrouded by the war era. However, much like Snuffy Stirnweiss, these guys were legitimate prospects with legitimate chances. Yes, both of their careers died after the war, but baseball is cruel. Etten will forever be the forgotten American League home run king.

Nippon Ham Fighters officially post Shohei Ohtani


Shohei Ohtani is officially on his way to the big leagues. MLB and the Nippon Ham Fighters announced today that Ohtani has indeed been posted, and now has 21 days to negotiate and sign with one of the 30 MLB clubs. Ohtani has been grandfathered in under the old posting agreement, so whichever team signs him will pay a $20M release fee to the (Ham) Fighters. MLB says the 21-day window closes at 11:59pm ET on December 22nd.

MLB, NPB, and the MLBPA agreed to a new posting system last week, and it was ratified today, paving the way for Ohtani to be posted. The union used Ohtani’s posting as leverage to get a more favorable deal for future Japanese players coming to MLB. Now more of the money goes to the player rather than his former team in Japan. Would’ve been cool if the MLBPA had fought harder for their future members during Collective Bargaining Agreement talks, but better late than never, I guess.

The 23-year-old Ohtani is pretty much the coolest baseball player in the world, a 100 mph throwing dinger hitting machine. Ankle and quad injuries limited him to 231 plate appearances (.332/.403/.540) and 25.1 innings (3.20 ERA) this season. Last season, when fully healthy, Ohtani hit .322/.416/.588 with 22 homers in 382 plate appearances, and struck out 174 with a 1.86 ERA in 140 innings.

Last week Ohtani and his agent, Nez Balelo of CAA Sports, started the recruiting process by giving the 30 teams homework. They asked for a written report with all sorts of information, including evaluations of Ohtani as a player, their player development philosophies and facilities, available resources to help him transition to life in the United States, all sorts of things. I took a crack at putting together the Yankees’ report.

Because he is still only 23, Ohtani is subject to the international hard cap and can only sign a standard minor league contract. The Yankees reportedly have $3.5M in international bonus money available, slightly behind the Rangers ($3.535M) for the most in baseball. MLB will come down hard on any attempted hard cap circumvention, such as a handshake agreement on a contract extension. The Braves penalties announced last week were timed to be a warning shot. Do anything improper with Ohtani and you’ll get hit hard.

It should be noted Ohtani is currently in the United States. He was spotted in Los Angeles earlier this week. I have to think Ohtani and Balelo will meet face-to-face with several teams during his 21-day negotiating window, and possibly visit some cities as well. When Masahiro Tanaka was posted, he went to Los Angeles and had interested teams meet him there to make their in-person sales pitch. He didn’t visit any cities. I suppose Ohtani could do the same.

The Yankees will reportedly pursue Ohtani aggressively, which makes perfect sense. He’s very talented and also young, so he’d fight right in with their youth movement. Ohtani is five months younger than Luis Severino, for reference. The Yankees can slot Ohtani right into their rotation and let him serve as the DH between starts, and he’d join a strong young core that is ready to win right now. The consensus seems to be that the Yankees are the favorites to sign Ohtani, but who knows. All they can do is make their pitch and hope for the best.

Tommy Kahnle: The former Trenton Thunder reliever returns [2017 Season Review]

Even when it's not the Wild Card Game, he always looks this hyped up. (Elsa/Getty Images)
Even when it’s not the Wild Card Game, he always looks this hyped up. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Four years ago — when he was striking out 11.1 batters per nine innings with the Trenton Thunder — it was easy to imagine Tommy Kahnle being an impact reliever with the New York Yankees.

A year ago? That was tougher to imagine.

Kahnle’s 2017 season is a story of a reliever figuring things out and arriving in a place able to showcase his talents.

Before the trade

There’s a reason Kahnle wasn’t highly sought after prior to the 2017 trade deadline. The former Rule 5 Draft pick had long struggled with his command, walking north of a batter every other inning even in the minors. LaTroy Hawkins, former Yankee (and nearly every other team), called him “one of his worst teammates ever.” His high velocity, accompanied by top-notch strikeout rates, made him an interesting prospect, one on which both the Rockies and White Sox took a chance.

What changed in 2017 were the walks. In 36 innings with the White Sox, he walked just seven batters after walking 20 in nine fewer innings a year prior. Meanwhile, he actually upped his strikeouts, K’ing a shocking 42.6 percent of batters while more than halving his walk rate. Surely some of this was small sample size noise, but it looked like a legitimate turnaround.

And so on July 19, he was flipped with more well-known players Todd Frazier and David Robertson to the Yankees for Blake Rutherford, Tito Polo, Ian Clarkin and Tyler Clippard. Despite Frazier and Robertson’s respective reputations, Kahnle seemed to be the centerpiece of the deal. Under team control for 3.5 seasons and not even arbitration eligible, he was both cheap and effective. The two veterans had larger contracts with shorter terms.

An ugly August

Kahnle pitched in his first game after the trade and struck out two batters in an inning. He struck out eight batters over six outings before allowing a hit and didn’t walk anyone until his 11th game in New York. But beginning in late July, he gave up a fair number of hits.

From July 29 to Aug. 30, he gave up 17 hits and walked five in 12 1/3 innings. He continued to get strikeouts, 14 to be exact, but he allowed a .327/.383/.481 line. He essentially turned the opposition into 2009 Derek Jeter.

Kahnle’s worst stretch in pinstripes came in three outings from Aug. 18-23 against the Red Sox and Tigers. While recording just five outs, he gave up five runs on seven hits, one home run and two walks, striking out just one. Before that stretch, he’d allowed the go-ahead inherited runner to score in a crushing loss to Boston on Aug. 13 and hadn’t seemed like the surefire middle inning reliever the Yankees had acquired.

His fastball and slider velocity both trended down in August by about 0.8 mph, which may have been due to fatigue. He’d thrown in 20 games over his last 43 days by the end of the month. He was already at 57 total appearances after throwing in just 52 games between AAA and the majors in 2016 and 57 in 2015.

A return to form

After his slight downturn, Kahnle was removed from most high leverage innings in September and subsequently began to thrive. His velocity didn’t jump, but he cut down on the usage of his slider. He’d used it 25.3 percent of the time in July. But once he came to the Yankees, he cut it down to 15.2 percent in August and 5.8 percent in September. Meanwhile, he increased his reliance on his changeup in August and became fastball heavy in September.

For the final month of the year, he allowed just eight hits in 10 innings (though he walked five) and gave up just one run. He struck out 15 of 41 batters faced and didn’t give up a single extra-base hit. That was the Kahnle the Yankees were expecting in the trade.

It was perfect timing for the Bombers, who would need his arm in October.

Postseason excellence until the end

With Dellin Betances out of the mix, Kahnle moved up a spot in Joe Girardi‘s circle of trust in the postseason. He returned the favor by not giving up a run until the Yankees’ last game.

In the Wild Card Game, he recorded seven outs, his most of the season and highest total since his rookie season. While he struck out just one batter, he retired every batter he faced and provided the bridge from Robertson to Aroldis Chapman to secure the Yankees’ advancement. He also got a bit lucky on a peculiar grounder down the first-base line.

His shining moment was likely ALDS Game 4. Entering the game with two on and none out in the eighth inning, he proceeded to strike out five of the next six batters en route to his first (and only) save of the year. He was dominance personified and allowed the Yankees to save Robertson and Chapman for the crucial Game 5 two days later.

Kahnle pitched two scoreless innings in ALCS Game 2 before throwing three scoreless in the Bronx over Games 3 and 5. He allowed some hard contact in the last outing as he worked past his career-high in innings. He’d previous thrown 68 2/3 with the Rockies in 2014, but eclipsed that with 74 between the regular season and playoffs this year.

So that fatigued reared its ugly head in Game 7 against the Astros. He allowed three runs, tarnishing his unblemished postseason and turning a 1-0 game into a 4-0 game. With the way Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers were pitching, it may not have mattered, but it felt like the nail in the coffin for the Yankees.

2018 Outlook

Kahnle remains under Yankees control for a while and figures to keep his prominent spot in the bullpen, provided he can keep up his 2017 breakout. His walk rate certainly climbed post-trade and he’ll have to prove whether his turnaround in command was for real or a mere flash in the pan.

Still, even with an elevated walk rate, Kahnle was still an effective reliever for the Yankees and will continue to be a key cog in middle relief. His first full year in pinstripes is a big opportunity for the 28-year-old righty.