Tuesday Notes: Tanaka, WBC, London, Stottlemyre, ESPN

(Koji Watanabe/Getty)
Tanaka at the 2013 WBC. (Koji Watanabe/Getty)

We are right smack in the middle of the slowest time of the offseason. The baseball world is essentially on hold during the holidays, before the bargain shopping begins in January. Here are some bits of news to check out in the meantime.

Tanaka not on partial WBC roster

Team Japan has announced the first 19 players of their 28-man roster for the 2017 World Baseball Classic, reports Jason Coskrey, and Masahiro Tanaka is not among those 19 players. Outfielder Nori Aoki is the only MLB player on the roster. Two-way star Shohei Otani is the headliner, obviously. Final rosters are due sometime in January, which ain’t so far away anymore.

“Regarding MLB players, we are not going to announce where we are (in talks) and it’s all going to be announced when we actually announce (the final roster),” said Japan baseball secretary general Atsushi Ihara to Coskrey. “We don’t really have the timetable, but manager (Hiroki) Kokubo is saying that he wants to set it early.”

Tanaka, who pitched in both the 2009 and 2013 WBCs, has said he wants to pitch in the 2017 edition. The Yankees can’t stop their ace from participating. Brian Cashman confirmed it. Team Japan did not take MLB players in the last WBC, not even Ichiro, but Ihara’s comments and the fact Aoki is the on the roster suggests they’ll look to take a few this time around. We’ll see what happens with Tanaka.

Yankees, Red Sox could be headed to London

According to Michael Silverman, the Yankees and Red Sox could be headed to London to play a series next season. Hal Steinbrenner and Red Sox owner John Henry have been discussing the possibility for several years now. MLB has been looking to grow the game globally and the new Collective Bargaining Agreement includes provisions to play games outside the country.

“The Yankees have been at the forefront of suggesting that we bring the great game of baseball to London,” said Yankees president Randy Levine to Silverman. “There have been some meaningful attempts to do so, and we are hopeful and confident that we can play there soon. Playing the Red Sox in London would be a special and unique event.”

It’s no surprise the Yankees and Red Sox may end up playing overseas. They’re still baseball’s premier rivalry and will generate the most buzz. There are a ton of logistical issues to work out though. There’s the travel, first and foremost, and also the issue of gate receipts. One of the two teams is going to lose a handful of home games and associated revenue. Still, the Yankees playing in London would be pretty damn cool.

Stottlemyre doing better after health scare

Mel Stottlemyre, former Yankees pitcher and pitching coach, is doing better following a health scare last week, his wife Jean told John Harper. Mel’s son Todd wrote on Facebook his father was “in the hospital fighting for his life” last Friday. Stottlemyre has been fighting multiple myeloma, a type of bone marrow cancer, since 2000.

“He’s doing much better. We saw a big turnaround with Mel over the last 24 hours. He’s not in a life-threatening situation right now,” said Jean Stottlemyre to Harper. “It’s not the cancer. It was that he got sick from the chemo medicine. He was given antibiotics to fight infection and he’s responded well.”

Stottlemyre, who turned 75 last month, spent his entire playing career with the Yankees from 1964-74. Those were the “dark years” of the franchise, so Mel never did win a World Series as a player. He won his first ring as Mets pitching coach in 1986, and he added four titles as Yankees pitching coach from 1996-2005. Last year the Yankees surprised Stottlemyre with a plaque in Monument Park. It was one of the best moments of the season.

It was unclear whether Stottlemyre’s health would even allow him to make the trip from his home in Washington to Yankee Stadium for Old Timers’ Day last year. I’m glad to hear he’s doing well after that health scare last week. He’s been fighting cancer for close to two decades now, and he’s kicking its butt even at age 75. Go Mel.

Yankees to play four times on ESPN

A few days ago ESPN released their Sunday Night Baseball schedule for most of the first half, and, not surprisingly, the Yankees are featured more than a few times. They’re still a great draw. Here’s the schedule and here are the Sunday night broadcasts that will feature the Yankees:

  • April 16th: Cardinals at Yankees
  • May 7th: Yankees at Cubs
  • May 14th: Astros at Yankees
  • July 16th: Yankees at Red Sox

That May 14th game is the night the Yankees are retiring Derek Jeter’s number, though I’m not sure whether ESPN will show the ceremony. Probably not. YES will air the entire thing, I’m sure. As a reminder, the Yankees are going to play the very first game of 2017 on ESPN. They begin the season at 1pm ET on Sunday, April 2nd, on the road against the Rays. The next game that day begins at 4pm ET.

Saturday Links: Stottlemyre, Prospects, Teixeira, KBO

The Yankees continue their Grapefruit League schedule against the Braves this afternoon, and YES has picked the game up, so hooray for that. It wasn’t on the original broadcast schedule. Here are some links to help you pass the time until first pitch.

Stottlemyre’s health improving

Let’s start with some good news. According to John Harper, former Yankees pitcher and coach Mel Stottlemyre is improving as he fights blood cancer. “This is the best I’ve been in some time. I’m doing a lot better than when people saw me in New York,” he said. “I’m doing so well that the doctor told me I can pretty much live normally again. I’m going to get out and do more fishing again. I might even try to play golf again too.”

Stottlemyre, now 74, was able to travel to New York for Old Timers’ Day last summer. There had been some concern he wouldn’t be healthy enough to do so. The Yankees surprised Stottlemyre with a plaque in Monument Park and he gave a very touching speech. It was one of the best moments of the season, hands down. Glad to hear Mel is doing better. He’s had a lot of impact on the Yankees in his life, both as a player and as a coach.

FanGraphs evaluates Yankees prospects

Dan Farnsworth at FanGraphs recently posted his massive look at the Yankees’ farm system. It’s different, I’ll say that much, but different doesn’t automatically mean bad. Most of Farnsworth’s team lists have been off the beaten path. He has SS Jorge Mateo as the No. 1 prospect, which makes sense, but then has RHP Domingo Acevedo as No. 2. Give the post a look over if you’re a fan of divergent opinions. Here is my Preseason Top 30 Prospects List for comparison.

Teixeira wants to get to 500 homers

By almost any objective measure, Mark Teixeira is one of the best switch-hitting power hitters in baseball history. He ranks fourth all-time among switch-hitters with 394 homers, behind only Mickey Mantle (536), Eddie Murray (504), and Chipper Jones (468). (Carlos Beltran is fifth with 392 dingers.) Teixeira ranks seventh in OPS+ (129) and fourth in SLG (.518) among switch-hitters with 3,000 career plate appearances.

A few weeks ago Teixeira said he wants to play five more seasons, and more recently he told Ryan Hatch he would like to reach 500 home runs. “I think if I play long enough I’ll get there. God willing I’ll play four, five more years and that’d be a nice number,” he said. Teixeira is 106 homers shy and about to enter his age 36 season. Only 27 players in history have hit 106 homers after turning 36, though most have done it within the last 30 years so. The big thing is health. Teixeira hit 31 homers in only 111 games last year. As long as he stays on the field, he could get to 500 within three or four years. Doable? Yes. Likely? Probably not.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

MLB, KBO working on new posting agreement

According to Jee-Ho Yoo, Major League Baseball and the Korea Baseball Organization are currently in the process of negotiating a new posting agreement. The current posting agreement between MLB and KBO is the same as the old posting process for Japanese players, so teams submit a blind bid, then the high bidder wins a 30-day negotiating window with the player.

Under the current MLB-NPB agreement, Japanese players are free to negotiate with any team during a 30-day window, and the team that signs the player pays his former team a release fee. The release fee is set by the NPB team and capped at $20M. Yoo indicated MLB and KBO are talking about a similar system, except MLB wants to limit the max posting fee to only $8M.

Three notable Korean players have come to MLB through the posting process in recent years: Hyun-Jin Ryu ($25.7M bid), Byung-Ho Park ($12.85M), and Jung-Ho Kang ($5M). The bids are only going to increase though, especially if Park has success right away with the Twins the same way Kang did with the Pirates. It’s no surprise MLB is trying to keep costs down. That’s what they do.

Yankees encouraging players to quit chewing tobacco

At the behest on MLB, the Yankees are encouraging their players to quit chewing tobacco. The team is offering “Nicotine Replacement Therapy Supplies” such as gum and patches, according to sign posted in the clubhouse in Tampa. Of course, chewing tobacco may soon be illegal at Yankee Stadium. The New York City Council is expected to approve a ban on smokeless tobacco at all sporting venues in the city, according to Adam Rubin. The vote is Tuesday.

Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, and Los Angeles have already passed similar bans on chewing tobacco, and it’s only a matter of time until other cities follow suit. Tony Gwynn passed away following a battle with salivary gland cancer, which may have been the result of his smokeless tobacco use as a player. Curt Schilling has mouth cancer and has said many times he blames it on his use of chewing tobacco. I am generally pro “do whatever you want with your body,” but I can understand why the city wants to ban chewing tobacco at sporting events. They don’t want kids to watch and pick it up.

Video: Yankees surprise Mel Stottlemyre with plaque in Monument Park

Hands down, the best moment of Old Timers’ Day this afternoon was the Yankees surprising Mel Stottlemyre with a plaque in Monument Park. Stottlemyre played with the Yankees from 1964-74 and served as the team’s pitching coach from 1996-2005.

Over the last few years Stottlemyre has been battling multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer, and the treatment has really taken its toll. Getting to Old Timers’ Day from his home in Washington was not a given. But Stottlemyre made it and the Yankees surprised him with a plaque. Check it out. This is truly fantastic.

Great job, Yankees. Keep fighting Mel.

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.

MLB.com’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.

A weekend of celebrating the past

After attending Old Timers’ Day in 2007, last year’s All Star Game and the final game at Yankee Stadium, I was old-timered out. There are, after all, so many times I could sit through watching the Yanks trot out a bunch of retired baseball players. But as Old Timers’ Day 2009 rolls around, one day after the tenth anniversary of David Cone’s perfect game, this weekend is a good one for Bronx baseball history.

On the David Cone, the ex-Yankee and current YES broadcaster will throw out the first pitch of today’s game. It was July 18, 1999, a Sunday, that David Cone secured his place in baseball history. Facing a young Expos squad, Cone needed just 88 pitches to face 27 batters that day. Scott Brosius caught the last out of the game off the bat of Orlando Cabrera in foul territory, and Cone was mobbed by Joe Girardi and the rest of his teammates.

To me, what sticks out most about that game was the way it ended. I spent that Sunday afternoon with my mom and sister at Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphonic Orchestra in Lenox, Massachusetts. When the 2:30 concert ended, I turned on my walkman and heard John Sterling say that David Cone was just three outs away from a perfect game. I blurted out the news, and the only people to react were my family members. A lawn full of people could have cared less.

After the perfect game, Cone would pitch in 73 more games but with little success. He went 16-29 with a 5.57 ERA, and it always seemed to me that he had sold his baseball soul for that perfect game. Now and then, he would flash his best stuff, but that was the apex of his Yankee career. Over at The Times’ Lens blog, sports photographer Barton Silverman remembers covering the perfect game.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, the Yankees will welcome back a bunch of old timers for the annual Old Timers’ Day festivities. The team announced some interesting additions yesterday. Mike Mussina, Don Zimmer and Mel Stottlemyre will all make their Old Timers’ Day debuts. You may remember Mike Mussina from such classic Yankee seasons as 2008, and unless Angel Berroa returns for the game, he will be the most recent former Yankee at the stadium on Sunday.

More intriguing are the Zimmer and Stottlemyre returns. Both coaches left on bad terms with the Steinbrenners. Zimmer and George got into some very public feuds following the 2003 season, and the Yanks haven’t really been the same since he left. Zimmer, if I recall correctly, swore never to return with George around. Stottlemyre resigned following the 2005 and was public about his disdain for George Steinbrenner. What the return of these two key members of the Yankee Dynasty coaching staff says about George Steinbrenner’s current state, I will leave for you to decide.