Showing posts from March, 2024

Put on a Happy Face

Sometimes, the best images I catch aren't the big plays but the human moments.  Thursday was media day at Syracuse, with the Mets working out on the field, along with interview opportunities.  While he's got to be disappointed not making the major league club, veteran 1st baseman-DH Ji Man Choi  didn't mind the chilly weather or the circumstances.  The guy just exudes joy -- the delight of playing a kid's game into adulthood.   Luisangel Acuna (below) flashed a smile Mets fans will hopefully soon see at Citi Field on a regular basis.  Mark Vientos  was in good spirits while taking ground balls at 3rd base and getting ready for this afternoon's season opener against Rochester. Pitching prospect Christian Scott  (below) isn't bother by temperatures in the 40s.  The Fort Lauderdale native says his grandparents lived in the Boston area, so he's used to the brisk feel of New England this time of year. Therefore, it must be true -- baseball makes you happy!  

Baseball Eve Deal

Yankee fans, say hello to your likely opening day 3rd baseman.  With DJ LeMahieu recovering from a foot injury and Oswaldo Cabrera's bat scaring no one, Brian Cashman signed on to a three-team deal on Wednesday.  The roll call: infielder Jon Berti heads from Miami to New York; backup catcher Ben Rortvedt joins the Rays; while the Marlins pick up prospects John Cruz (from New York) and Shane Sasaki (from Tampa Bay).  Besides bringing in a short-term fix at 3rd base, Berti could easily become the 2024 version of Isaih Kiner-Falefa: the veteran utility player who can fill in at almost every position. Rortvedt (below) played just 32 games for the Yanks after coming east in the 2022 Josh Donaldson/Gary Sanchez deal.  Out of options, and showing less upside than Austin Wells, he finds a home with another AL East contender -- bringing back value when Cashman might have lost him for nothing had he tried to send him to the minors.      My images of Berti came from a 2019 Marlins/Mets game

2024 James P Dawson Award

After impressing all through Spring Training, Spencer Jone s has been named the winner of the James P. Dawson Award.  Given to the Yankees most impressive prospect in Grapefruit League play, the Vanderbilt product opened eyes when by hitting .444/.565/.722 (8-for-18) with two doubles, a home run, four RBIs, seven runs scored and four walks in 12 spring games.  Having played less than 20 games at Double A, the lefty swinger will open 2024 at Somerset -- but don't be surprised if he is promoted to Scranton Wilkes-Barre before the All Star Break.  Having seen him in a couple of games this past month, Jones looked to be on the verge of very big things, at least as much as I recall Aaron Judge in his days with Trenton.  In other words, he looks the part. Let's take a moment to look at the history of this honor.  Named for the longtime New York Times sportswriter, Norm Siebern was its first recipient, in 1956.  Over the years, such Yankee standouts as Tony Kubek (1957), Roy White (19

Final Roster Spots

  Victor Gonzalez, still in the running to replace Wandy Peralta as a Yankee bullpen lefty, appeared in Sunday's exhibition game in his native country.  He worked an inning, giving up an unearned run against the Mexico City Diablos Rojos.  ( I saw him in action March 4th against the Marlins .) (Below:)  Jake Cave , after hitting over .320 with the Phillies in Grapefruit League play, had to be surprised when told he'd been traded to the Rockies.  While Colorado likely can offer more playing time than he'd receive as the Phils fifth outfielder, it's got to sting when he leaves one of the NL's strongest teams for one of the weakest. Daniel Vogelbach,  unloved and unwanted by Mets fans, has made the Blue Jays.  The chunky DH was told Sunday that he'll be on Toronto's roster when they open the season Thursday at Tampa Bay.   Among those he edged out was prospect  Spencer Horwitz   (below).  After hitting .337 last year at Triple A Buffalo, the Maryland native s

If Your Birthday is March 22nd...

Image share it with Edwin Diaz .  The Mets closer -- back in action after missing 2023 with a knee injury sustained in a World Baseball Classic post-game celebration -- saved 32 games in each of his last two full seasons.   His return turns the Mets bullpen from a question mark into a strength, especially important as the club starts the year without its best 2023 starter Kodai Senga. (Below:) Ike Davis looked like he would become a Mets mainstay -- until his career was sidetracked by illness and injury.  The son of longtime big league pitcher Ron Davis hit his peak in 2012, when he crushed 32 homers and drove in 90.  Ike spent time with the Pirates and A's before ending his career with an eight-game cameo with the 2016 Yankees -- making him one of the 155 to have appeared with both New York teams.  Davis, whose mother's family is Jewish, played for Team Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.  

Exhibition Explosion

  While I saw the Yankees (travel squads) four times, this year's Spring Training vacation didn't include a stop at Steinbrenner Field.  Since teams usually send just a few starters to away games, that meant I watched the new and improved Giancarlo Stanton .   But anyone tuning in last night on YES got to witness it for themself -- albeit in a game that didn't count.  Three home runs, two of them monster shots: a first inning blast that hit off the top of the batter's eye in center field; and equally potent rocket that soared over the left field scoreboard for a second inning grand slam.  Tack on a third homer that traveled "just" 426 feet to center, and you've got well over 1300 feet of pure production.  The Yankees DH capped his night with a sacrifice fly for eight RBI's.   ( Not seeing Stanton or Steinbrenner Field in person, these images are from my archives -- both timestamped 2018, his first season in pinstripes .) I didn't realize -- did you

Familiar Faces Around Florida

Spring Training is an ideal place for collecting autographs.  That's Cardinals legend  Willie McGee  making some new friends before a Mets/Cardinals game in Jupiter. (Below:) Harrison Bader, whose career began with the Cardinals, signed with the Mets over the winter.  He'll likely be their primary center fielder. Longtime Colorado Rockie David Dahl is trying to make the Phillies as their fifth outfielder.  He's looked good this spring -- hitting close to .300 with a couple of home runs in a dozen games.

Final Grapefruit League Stop: Dunedin

My two weeks of spring training ball wrapped up with a visit to TD Ballpark in Dunedin, where the Blue Jays hosted a mostly minor league version of the Yankees.   It was great seeing Jose Trevino back in action.  The 2022 All Star ramped things up slowly this spring after missing much of last season with a hand injury. (Below:) While I have yet to see winter acquisition Alex Verdugo on the field, I did get my first look at Trent Grisham , who'll likely slot in as the club's 4th outfielder.   Anthony Volpe was the only other Yankee regular who made the trip to the East Coast as well as the one to Dunedin (about a half-hour from Steinbrenner Field).  He's still working on that flatter swing, in order to make better contact and improve on last year's .209 batting average and 167 strikeouts. (Below) Those on hand noticed something different about  Oswaldo Cabrera .  Instead of his usual 95, he was wearing 33... according to several media reports, he brought the wrong unifo

Phillies in Clearwater

It was a picture perfect Monday as the Phillies hosted the Yankees at Baycare Ballpark -- a thousand miles and 25 degrees from South Philadelphia -- with seven members of their likely opening day lineup in action along with co-ace Zack Wheeler . With a sellout crowd of almost 10,000, Phillies phans were treated to a pitchers duel, initially between Wheeler and New York prospect Clayton Beeter   -- seen here with Bryce Harper taking his lead off first place. Alec Bohm is entering his fifth season as the Phils' regular at 3rd base.  (Below:)  Bryson Stott thrived after moving to 2nd, after the in 2023 signing of Trea Turner.   It was a day packed with impressive pitching:  Beeter and Luis Gil stood out for the Yankees, as did Wheeler and top Phillies prospect Mick Abel.  The Yankees, on a two-run 8th inning homer by Oscar Gonzalez, grabbed the lead and held on for a 2-1 victory.

If Your Birthday is March 8th...

Image share it with Tommy Pham .  The well-traveled outfielder began 2023 with the Mets and ended it with the surprise-NL pennant winning Diamondbacks -- where he homered in the Division Series, Championship Series and World Series. And we remember a pair of headline-making stars of the past: Dick Allen : the 1964 NL Rookie of the Year and seven-time All Star as one of the game's most feared sluggers while starring for the Phillies and White Sox. Jim Bouton : the New Jersey native who starred for the last two Yankee pennant winners of the '60s, but fell apart in 1965, the year the Mantle/Berra/Ford dynasty collapsed.  His Ball Four  was the first of the great baseball "tell all" books -- although in retrospect, it's more genial and affectionate about the game Bouton clearly loved.  He later enjoyed a good run as a New York TV sportscaster.

Pre-season Subway Series: Focus on the Mets

The Yankees wrapped up their East Coast of Florida visit Tuesday when they took on the Mets at Port St. Lucie.   It was a perfect sun-splashed day.  Tylor Megill was the first in the Amazin's parade of pitchers.  Rebounding from a disappointing 2023, he authored three shutout no-hit innings, striking out six and surrendering just a pair of walks. While the Yanks didn't send superstars such as Judge, Soto and Cole, and the Mets had already farmed out such exciting prospects as Gilbert, Acuna and Williams, there was plenty for fans to focus on, starting with  Starling Marte   and newcomer  Harrison Bader   -- again sporting a beard --  who'll be the next to join the circle of those who have played for both the Yankees and Mets. Francisco Lindor  and Pete Alonso were in the lineup. Late in the game, longtime Mets minor league catcher  Hayden Senger  took over for  Francisco Alvarez . After jumping out to a 5-0 lead fueled in part by some sloppy Yankee fielding, the Mets held

Yankees under the Lights Monday Night

It was a rare Grapefruit League night game at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium as the Marlins drew a packed house of just under 7000 for the Yankees. Spencer Jones has generated a lot of buzz in the early going.  The tall lefty power hitter -- who at 6-foot-6 has drawn comparisons to the young Aaron Judge -- impressed in Monday night's Yankees win over the Marlins.  A well-hit single, a walk and capable work in center field.  There's still room for improvement -- he was picked off 1st in the 5th inning by Miami's Edward Cabrera.  But the 22 year old, with a just a year and a half of pro ball under his belt, looked like a keeper. Austin Wells made the cross-state trip as well.  He also singled, but more importantly, teamed up well with Clarke Schmidt  for four dominating innings.  Schmidt  was the story of the night.  I know, it's spring training, it was again the Marlins and it was only four innings.  But the righty looked ultra impressive -- throwing one hit shutout ball