The Yankees Are In Town.

Photo by Lance Hanish © 2014 all right reserved

Photo by Lance Hanish © 2014 all right reserved

It felt like post season play. The small market Cream City Nine was taking on the mighty New York Yankees…the Bronx Bombers…the Gotham Nine…the biggest of the big major league baseball teams in the world. Arguably one of the best know sports brands on the planet, the Yanks stride into a city, heads held high, looking smart and comfortable within their skins as the legends they represent on today’s playing fields are. No team has won more World Series Championships than the men in pinstripes. They are so great they may have invented pinstripes.

When they come out before the game, there are no pinstripes on the grey traveling uniforms and no names on their jerseys. ‘You can’t tell a player without a program was not invented by the Yanks because everyone knows who the players are. There are way more people than normal in the stands, showing up for BP. These are not the Pittsburgh Pirates. These are the real deal, honest to God, Yankees. They don’t even need a city locater in front of their name on their website (www.yankees.com). Everywhere you look there is a story: Mark Teixeira, 34-year-old big first baseman and former All-Star who is back after missing most of last season. He’s bigger than you think. Out jogs Ichiro. At 40 years old, he doesn’t need a last name as he is one of the greatest baseball players of this generation who was in every All Star game for a decade. Batting .373 this season and fewer than 300 hits away from 3,000,  strangely he is relegated to pinch running roles which give a whole new meaning to steal a base when he is on, or an occasional Sunday start. There’s Jacoby Ellsbury, the 29-year-old former Boston center fielder and All-Star, jogging in the outfield. Isn’t that Alfonso Soriano, a former seven-time All-Star, taking ground balls? CC Sabathia, 33-year-old former hero of Milwaukee and a six-time All-Star, is taking BP. Welcome back to the Senior Circuit, CC. Brian McCann, 30-year-old former Braves’ All-Star, walking out, swinging a bat ready to go into the cage. Walking back to the dugout is Carlos Beltran, 37-year-old, 8 time All-Star, now playing right field for his fourth team. Then, last out of the dugout comes The Captain…Derek Jeter. In his farewell trip, and always a crowd favorite, he comes out just as he always has with his head held up high, jogging out to short to take a few grounders. He is the man. Even coming into the dugout to grab his bat, there is a regal kind of presence.

Then, out in the bullpen, there is the Master of Hyogo, Masahiro Tanaka, who was 24-0 in his homeland, and is still perfect in the Bigs too, throwing bullets. There is a reason he hasn’t lost sometime since 2012. His control is perfect. His demeanor is perfect. His presence is perfect. Imagining him anywhere else in major league baseball is imaginable. He is a Yankee.

It is that kind of night. The Yankees are in The Keg.

When Jeter comes to the plate, as will happen when CC Sabathia comes to the pate the next day, these Midwestern folks who know their baseball and understand the moment like few others in the game, rise and give him a standing ovation. A STANDING OVATION for an opposing player. In all of baseball, that is unheard of. But there is a reason. Derek Jeter is one of the great baseball players that has ever lived. And, he has represented his sport like few other professionals in the history of the game.  Here is a guy who even warns some guy who runs out to short during the game to ask for a hug and Derek Jeter just says to the fan near his idol, “You’re going to get in trouble. “And then he repeated that the fan wanted a hug, and Jeter said, ‘Look out.’, just before security guards grabbed the guy and took him out of the ballpark. What kind of a guy is Derek Jeter?

He is the Lou Gehrig of our day.

He is the Captain of the Yankees.

Play Ball!

Choo McCann

In the world of baseball today, free agency is one of the huge topics of consideration as teams prepare for next season, especially those teams who are no longer in the race for the championship or those teams that fall short of their ultimate goal at the end of this season’s journey. This season is no different from any other in this respect. Among all of the players eligible this next year for free agency, two stand out as key players who may be overlooked because of the Cano’s, Ellsbury’s and Garza’s.

There are two unique, nine-year veterans that should be on everyone’s list, Shin-Soo Choo and Brian McCann.

Brian McCann is a powerhouse. His .528 slugging percentage (7th in the National League) makes him one of the top power hitters on the free agent market. An added factor in his favor is that he will not turn 30 until spring training next February. In addition, he will not be in the $100+ million Cano sweepstakes that the Angels, Dodgers and Yankees continually participate in. Many consider McCann one of the top five catchers in the league. who needs a catch of tremendous proportion?

There is also, Shin-Soo Choo. His .416 on-base percentage absolutely dwarfs the next free agent, Cano, who has a .371 mark. At 31, he is just entering the peak of his career. His .389 OBP over nine years in The Show attests to his remarkable consistency. 21 home runs and a .289 batting average this season for Cincinnati, his first in the National League, is exactly the same as his career stats. Who needs a consistent outfielder? Again, you won’t have to pay him the Cano rate.

With McCann making $12,000,000 and Choo making $7,375,000, both are in for a big payday increase.

Play Ball!

Top Two Catchers In the National League

There are some good catchers in the National League. To understand the importance of this position in baseball, all you have to do is understand that this is the quarterback of a baseball team. The best, therefore, are usually associated with the best pitching staffs. With little question, and in no certain order, the five best pitching staffs are the Philadelphia Phillies, Milwaukee Brewers, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals and the Atlanta Braves. Each of these teams have an exceptional catcher behind the plate.

On offense through Sunday, for the ‘Fightin’s’ there is Carlos Ruiz, hitting .327 with a slugging percentage of .582 with 22 RBI. For the BrewCrew, Jonathan Lucroy has a .341 BA; .505 SLG and 16 RBI. For the Giants, coming back from a serious injury last season, Buster Posey, the 2010 Rookie of the Year,  has a batting average this season of .282; .486 SLG and has driven in 12 RBI so far this season. For the Cards, the All-Star, Yadier Molina has a BA of .296; .504 SLG and 16 RBI so far this year. For the Braves, Brian McCann, an All-Star for the past six seasons, has a .284 BA; .406 SLG and has driven in 20 RBI.

On defense this season, Ruiz has thrown out 11 of 28 runners and 1 passed ball in 236.2 innings. Lucroy has thrown out 9 of 35 runners and has 3 passed balls in 222.1 innings so far. Posey, just beginning his season after the injury has only 57.0 innings played. As for Yadier, the perennial All-Star behind the plate, has thrown out 6 runners out of 19 attempting to steal. He has 3 passed balls in his 253.0 innings. McCann has thrown out 6 runners out of 22 attempting to steal a base. He has 2 passed balls in 239 innings this season.

As you can see, all are exceptional back stops. But for the two top catchers so far this season, you have to probably throw out Posey because he is just coming back and  doesn’t have the innings yet this season. Now you are down to four.

The past performances of Molina and McCann automatically puts them into consideration. But this season, their hitting has not been up to par and they are behind both Ruiz and Lucroy in throwing out runners. Ruiz and Lucroy are also the top two hitting catchers in the National League.

But so far this season the arm of Ruiz appears to be on fire. Therefore through the first 35 games, Carlos Joaquin Ruiz appears to be the best the National League has to offer.

Play ball.