Saturday Links: Wildcard Game, Thames, Judge, Son, Yogi


The Yankees and White Sox are halfway through their four-game series. They continue the set with the third game later this afternoon. Here are some links to help you pass the time.

Wildcard games start times announced

Earlier this week, MLB announced the start times for the two wildcard games. The AL game will be played at 8:08pm ET on Tuesday, October 6th, while the NL game will be played at 8:08pm ET on Wednesday, October 7th. Standard postseason start times. The AL game will be broadcast on ESPN and the NL game on TBS. Those are the only games scheduled those days. The full postseason schedule can be found right here.

The Yankees come into today four games back of the Blue Jays in the AL East and 4.5 games up on the Astros for the first wildcard spot. They’re five games up on the Angels for a wildcard spot in general. The magic number to clinch the team’s first postseason berth since 2012 is a mere five, as Joe DiMaggio tells you in the sidebar. It’s unlikely the Yankees will catch and pass the Blue Jays to win the AL East, so they figure to be playing in that wildcard game one week from Tuesday. They’ll host the game at Yankee Stadium if they hold onto their lead for the first wildcard spot.

Q&A with Marcus Thames

Brendan Kuty recently posted a short-ish interview with Triple-A Scranton hitting coach Marcus Thames, who was with the Yankees during their recent trip to Toronto. Thames discussed his philosophy as a hitting coach and some players we’ve seen come up from the minors this year. He also spoke about top prospect OF Aaron Judge at length after Judge hit .224/.308/.373 (98 wRC+) with a 28.5% strikeout rate in 61 games for the RailRiders.

“If you come to a game and watch, everybody’s trying to make him expand (the strike zone). So if he expands, he’s going to get himself out. So he’s going to have to have discipline to know what he does well, and that’s swing at strikes. If he does that, he’s going to be fine,” said Thames. Judge is always going to strike out a bunch — he’s 6-foot-7 remember, that’s a lot of strike zone to cover — but another few hundred at bats in Triple-A next season is best for him. Triple-A is the place to learn how to not expand the zone, not the big leagues.

Son. (Korea Times)
Son. (Korea Times)

Korean OF Ah-Seop Son plans to come to MLB

Korean outfielder Ah-Seop Son plans to come over to MLB this offseason, reports Jeff Passan. Son will not be a free agent this winter, so his team, the Lotte Giants, will have to make him available through the posting system. Once he is posted, teams will be able to place a blind bid, and high bidder gets a 30-day window to negotiate a contract with Son. Here are his career stats, via Baseball Reference:

2007 19 -9.5 Lotte KBO 4 6 2 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 .167 .167 .333 .500
2008 20 -8.2 Lotte KBO 80 250 31 66 11 1 3 17 2 3 28 35 .303 .387 .404 .791
2009 21 -7.3 Lotte KBO 34 96 11 16 4 0 3 4 1 1 9 16 .186 .263 .337 .600
2010 22 -6.0 Lotte KBO 121 487 85 129 23 0 11 47 6 2 50 82 .306 .377 .438 .815
2011 23 -5.4 Lotte KBO 116 492 79 144 25 5 15 83 13 4 43 80 .326 .385 .507 .892
2012 24 -4.3 Lotte KBO 132 556 61 158 26 0 5 58 10 5 41 79 .314 .370 .396 .766
2013 25 -3.5 Lotte KBO 128 568 83 172 23 4 11 69 36 7 64 88 .345 .421 .474 .895
2014 26 -2.9 Lotte KBO 122 570 105 175 25 3 18 80 10 3 80 78 .362 .456 .538 .994
2015 27 Lotte KBO 108 480 82 133 26 0 12 52 11 6 62 95 .321 .408 .471 .879
All Levels (9 Seasons) 845 3505 539 994 164 13 78 411 89 31 377 554 .324 .399 .462 .860

Son, who turns 28 in March, is described as a player “whose forte is more hitting for a high average and getting on base” rather than hitting for power. Passan notes Son will qualify for free agency next year, so if he gets lowballed during contract talks this winter, he could simply return to Korea for another season, then try again as a true free agent with more negotiating leverage next offseason.

The Yankees have a full and rather pricey big league outfield as well as a bevy of lefty hitting outfielders in the upper minors — Son is a left-handed hitter as well — so I’m not sure he makes sense for them. (For what it’s worth, the Yankees are reportedly scouting Korean first baseman Byung-Ho Park.) That said, you can be sure teams will take a much harder look at Korean players going forward following the success of Jung-Ho Kang with the Pirates.

Yogi’s funeral will be an “intimate private memorial”

According to Priscella DeGregory, the funeral for the late Yogi Berra will be an “intimate private memorial” next week, likely near his home in Montclair, New Jersey. It’ll be a small service for his family according to officials for Berra’s museum. “The outpouring of emotion that we have witnessed is a testimonial to how significant an impact he had not just as an athlete but as a human being,” said museum CEO Kevin Peters to DeGregory. Yogi passed away at age 90 late Tuesday night. We all miss him.

Triple-A Scranton, Double-A Trenton announce coaching staffs

Thames is movin' on up. (Times of Trenton)
Thames is movin’ on up. (Times of Trenton)

The Yankees have yet to hire a new hitting coach and first base coach, but they have finalized the coaching staffs for their top two minor league affiliates. They were officially announced a few days ago. There was quite a bit a turnover — which isn’t uncommon at the minor league level —  and some of it appears to have long-term big league implications. Here are the new staffs:

Triple-A Scranton

Manager: Dave Miley
Hitting Coach: Marcus Thames
Pitching Coach: Scott Aldred
Defensive Coach: Justin Tordi
Trainers: Darren London (head trainer) and Lee Tressell (strength and conditioning)

Miley, Aldred, and London are all returning. Miley has been managing New York’s top farm team since 2006, when they were still affiliated with the Columbus Clippers. Aldred was considered for the big league pitching coach job a few years ago before Larry Rothschild was hired. Tordi was the first base and bench coach with Low-A Charleston last summer.

The most notable name here is Thames, who was said to be a candidate for the big league hitting coach job earlier this offseason. In fact, at one point it was erroneously reported he would take over as the team’s assistant hitting coach, but obviously that isn’t the case. Thames was the hitting coach for High-A Tampa in 2013 and Double-A Trenton in 2014, so he’s moving up another level. He has a lot of supporters in the organization and it appears the team is grooming him for an MLB coaching job in the future, perhaps as soon as 2016. Maybe that whole assistant hitting coach report thing was a year early.

Double-A Trenton

Manager: Al Pedrique
Hitting Coach: P.J. Pilittere
Pitching Coach: Jose Rosado
Defensive Coach: Michel Hernandez
Trainers: Lee Meyer (head trainer) and Orlando Crance (strength and conditioning)

Hernandez, Meyer and Crance are all returning to the team. Rosado is joining the Thunder after spending the last four seasons as a pitching coach with one of the team’s two rookie level Gulf Coast League affiliates.

Pilittere, who longtime RAB readers will remember as a player from Down on the Farm, was High-A Tampa’s hitting coach last year, Low-A Charleston’s hitting the coach the year before that, and the Rookie GCL Yanks hitting coach the year before that. The scouting report on him as a player always said he was smart guy with top notch makeup, which made him a good coaching candidate down the line. Like Thames, Pilittere seems to be a faster riser up the coaching ranks.

Pedrique is replacing longtime Thunder skipper Tony Franklin, who had been managing the team since 2007. Pedrique has some big league managerial and coaching experience — he spent 83 games as interim manager of the awful Diamondbacks in 2004 — and has been with the organization since 2013. He managed Low-A Charleston in 2013 and High-A Tampa in 2014.

Franklin, meanwhile, will manage the Pulaski Yankees in 2015, the organization’s new rookie ball affiliate, according to George King (subs. req’d). King notes that under new player development head Gary Denbo, the Yankees want to put veteran managers at the lower levels of the minors to work with their youngest prospects. I like the idea. I have no idea if it’ll make any real difference, but I like it.

Update: Yankees have not named Marcus Thames assistant hitting coach

Thames. (Times of Trenton)
Thames. (Times of Trenton)

Tuesday: While speaking with reporters at the Winter Meetings on Tuesday, Brian Cashman said the Yankees have not decided to hire Thames as the assistant hitting coach and called the report “false.” He said they need to hire a hitting coach first, which the team is still not close to doing. Same with the first base coach position.

Saturday: According to Anthony McCarron and Bill Madden, the Yankees are planning to hire Marcus Thames as their assistant MLB hitting coach. There’s still no word on who they will hire as the actual hitting coach, but the Daily News scribes says long-time minor league hitting coordinator James Rowson is the favorite right now.

Thames, 37, last played with the Dodgers back in 2011. He spent 2013 as the hitting coach at High-A Tampa and 2014 as the hitting coach at Double-A Trenton. Thames was reportedly considered for the hitting coach job, though it’s unclear if he ever actually interviewed. Seems kinda weird that they’ve already picked an assistant hitting coach before an actual hitting coach. Of course they could already have a hitting coach lined up and we just don’t know about it.

As for the first base coaching job, McCarron and Madden say minor league field coordinator Jody Reed is the current favorite for the job. He was a coach and coordinator in the farm system from 2007-10 and also in 2014. Reed was with the Dodgers from 2011-13. McCarron and Madden also say the Yankees have interviewed Willie Randolph for the first base coaching job. Randolph was the team’s third base coach from 1994-2003 and their bench coach in 2004.

I’m glad the Yankees are embracing the hitting coach/assistant hitting coach system and it’ll be cool to see Thames on the staff. He’s awesome. It’ll be ready cool if Randolph comes back as well. Everyone loves Willie. There’s no word on when the Yankees will officially hire a hitting coach and a first base coach, and at this point I think I’m more interested to see how long they can go without naming coaches than I am to see who they actually hire.

Heyman: Yanks interested in Bichette, Thames, Rowson for hitting coach job

Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees have some interest in Dante Bichette, Marcus Thames, and James Rowson for their vacant hitting coach position. They’ve already interviewed Rangers hitting coach Dave Magadan and will interview Athletics hitting coach Chili Davis at some point in the near future. Bichette and Thames had been speculated as fits previously.

Bichette, who is very close with Joe Girardi and has a son in the Yankees farm system, was the Rockies hitting coach in 2013. He left the team after that season because he didn’t want to be away from his family so much. Thames was the hitting coach at High-A Tampa last year and Double-A Trenton this year. He’s earned rave reviews for his work with the team’s young prospects. Rowson has had two stints with the Yankees as a minor league hitting instructor (2006-11, 2014) and briefly served as the Cubs interim hitting coach in 2013. It sounds like the team has kicked around the idea of these three but is focused elsewhere.

Yankees hire Marcus Thames as High-A hitting coach

The Yankees have hired Marcus Thames as the hitting coach for their High-A Tampa affiliate, the club announced. He joins long-time manager and former Yankee Luis Sojo, the winningest manager in Florida State League history.

Thames, 35, last played with the Dodgers back in 2011. He was originally drafted by the Yankees back in 1996 and broke into the show with them in 2002, famously homering off Randy Johnson on the first pitch he saw as a big leaguer. He’s perhaps best remembered around these parts for being a force off the bench back in 2010 — .288/.350/.491 with a dozen homers. Thames is a super nice guy and incredibly easy to like, so I wish him well down in Tampa. Plus, you know, I get to link to this.

Yankees getting the band back together, re-sign Marcus Thames

Via George King, the Yankees have signed Marcus Thames to a minor league contract. He’ll work out in Tampa at the minor league complex before being assigned to Triple-A Scranton. The Dodgers released Thames earlier this week after he’d hit just .197/.243/.333 with two homers in 70 plate appearances this year, plus he missed a bunch of time due to a calf strain. Welcome back, Marcus.

Open Thread: Good journalism vs. bad journalism

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

I tend to have very little interest in players’ personal lives. It adds zero value to my life, all I worry about is what happens on the field. So when Austin Romine left camp for a few days last week for a personal reason, I thought nothing of it. Stuff comes up, who cares, none of my business. Jack Curry wrote about Romine today, and it turns out the young backstop had to leave camp to attend the funeral of his younger cousin, who was killed while participating in a combat operation in Afghanistan. “At this point in time,” said Romine, who remained in camp for ten days after learning of his cousin’s death, “I have no more tears.” It’s a great and heartfelt article that gets RAB’s highest recommendation.

Unfortunately, that side of journalism, the good side, is generally overshadowed by garbage. Instead of more columns like Curry’s, we get stuff like this complete assassination of Marcus Thames by T.J. Simers of The LA Times, a hatchet job that went so far as to attack the pronunciation of the guy’s name. Based on what we read and saw last year, Marcus was as nice a guy as they come, and if you needed any reason to root harder for him, well Simers provided it. I’m glad Thames took the high road and refused to stoop to that level, a level unfit for the hackiest of hacks.

Anyways, here is your open thread for the night. YES is playing an encore of this afternoon’s Yankees-Orioles game, and MLB Network will be doing the same with Mets-Tigers. All three hockey locals are in action as well. Talk about whatever, go nuts.