Monday Morning Musings: 4/18/16

Two weeks down, many more to go.  The Yankees snapped their pesky losing streak yesterday with a 1-run win over the Mariners.  They've got another off-day today before welcoming the A's and Rays to town for the rest of this week.  6 games this week, all at home.  That's a helluva good opportunity to turn this recent offensive slump around and get back over .500.  Here are some thoughts on the happenings over the first 2 weeks: - It was good to see Alex Rodriguez get off the schneid with his 2-run homer to left to get the scoring started yesterday.  It was even better to see him do it against a fastball, which has given him plenty of problems over the first 10 games.  According to Brooks Baseball, A-Rod has seen 44 4-seam fastballs so far and has swung and missed at over 20% of them.  He's also swung and missed at over 13% of the 2-seamers he's seen, so clearly the heat is giving him some trouble.

Last year he surprised a lot of people by showing good bat speed and squaring up a lot of good fastballs.  This year it's been the exact opposite.  Iwakuma doesn't exactly throw smoke either, so I'd still like to see A-Rod do some damage against something moving 94, 95, 96 like he did so often last season.  Hopefully he can use yesterday as a springboard to correct whatever's been causing the early fastball struggles.

- Speaking of fastballs, it was better than good to see the return of Masahiro Tanaka's FB velocity yesterday.  He threw 10 4-seamers and averaged 93.2 MPH on those pitches, maxing out at 94.5.  He also hit 93 with his sinker a few times, both of those values far above what he was throwing in his first 2 starts.  We heard Larry Rothschild say recently that Tanaka needs to stop thinking so much on the mound and trust his arm and his stuff.  Perhaps yesterday was the first instance of him taking that advice and letting it go with the heater.  He looked like a much different pitcher yesterday than he did in his first 2 starts, like he wasn't holding anything back.  If he can consistently stay 92-94 with his fastball, it's going to make the rest of his offspeed stuff that much more effective.

- Carlos Beltran certainly looks like he's picked up right where he left off last year.  After hitting .292/.364/.513 in the second half, he's off to a .341/.357/.610 start in his first 11 games.  He's not going to sustain that line over the whole year or even the rest of this month, but the hot start and the positive eye test is an encouraging sign that he can remain productive in this final year of his deal.  He looks completely relaxed and balanced at the plate, and his at-bats more than anybody else on the team's seem to end with hard contact.

- On the opposite end of that spectrum, the bench production has been lacking in the early going.  Dustin Ackley doesn't have a hit in 8 plate appearances, Aaron Hicks only has 1 in 13, and Austin Romine hasn't made anybody forget that he's Austin Romine.  The only player swinging a decent bat off the bench is Ronald Torreyes, who is 6-12, and he was expected to be the weakest offensive link of the bench group.  It could just be a matter of adjusting to irregular playing time and I'm sure Joe is going to start working Hicks in more to keep his outfield starters fresh, but it would be nice to see these guys hit a little bit when they're in the game.

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Quick Hit: Don't Stress About The Rest

I mentioned this briefly in my game recap on Saturday night, but I wanted to go back and revisit Joe's decision to use Dellin Betances with a 4-run lead in the 8th inning of that game.  There were people asking why he would use Betances in that situation and some early chatter of concern on Twitter about Joe overusing him.  I honestly almost laughed out loud reading some of the comments. I tweeted this out yesterday morning, but if you're unfortunate enough to not follow me, I'll do it again here.  This was Dellin Betances' workload last week:

Monday- Did not pitch (rainout) Tuesday- 0.2 IP, 30 pitches Wednesday- Did not pitch Thursday- 1.0 IP, 13 pitches Friday- Did not pitch Saturday- 1.0 IP, 26 pitches Sunday- Did not pitch (rainout)

3 appearances, 2.2 innings pitched, 69 pitches thrown.  Now the rainouts certainly helped limit Betances' usage, but I would be willing to bet that Joe would have given Betances the night off anyway yesterday just in the interest of not using him back-to-back early when he threw 25+ pitches the game before.  Either way, Betances would have gotten another day off before going into today's scheduled off-day, which Joe surely knew he had available to rest his bullpen.  5 off-days and 3 days of work.  That's not a very strenuous schedule for the first week of the regular season.  For the sake of comparison, Betances pitched 4.1 innings in 4 appearances and threw 95 pitches over the first week of last season.  None of those appearances were back-to-back either.

The point here is that it is foolish to start getting worked up about Betances' workload and whether he's getting enough rest in the first week of the season.  He's had plenty of rest and Joe hasn't been working him too hard.  Had Betances not walked the yard and thrown the ball away on Opening Day, he wouldn't have had to throw so many pitches.  Joe gave him a day off after that outing and he'll have 2 days off after a 25+ pitch outing on Saturday.  He's fine.

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Thoughts On The Opening Day Roster

[caption id="attachment_80796" align="aligncenter" width="575"]Opening Day Sure looks nice without all the rain and snow, huh?[/caption] It's here.  At long last, it's finally here.  It's been exactly 180 days since the Yankees were shut out by Dallas Keuchel to end their 2015 season.  Now today they'll get a chance to right that wrong as they take the field to kick off their 2016 season against Keuchel and the Houston Astros again.  Well, weather permitting they'll do that.  Weather not permitting, I'll have wasted some valuable PTO at work and I'll have to burn more to watch Opening Day Part Deux tomorrow.

But for now we're sticking with positive vibes only and assuming that they will get the game in today.  The Yankees put the finishing touches on their Opening Day roster over the weekend, and to me it's both very similar and very different to last year's roster and the rosters of the past few seasons.  There's still the aging core that's going to make or break the team and there are still tons of questions in the rotation, but there is a continuation of last year's commitments to youth and the implication that the playing time balance will be more evenly distributed amongst the regulars and key bench players this season in an attempt to keep everybody (especially that aging core) healthy and productive.  In no particular order of importance, here are some more of my thoughts on the 25-man crew that will take the field today to start the 2016 season.

- Did CC Sabathia deserve the 5th starter spot on merit?  Certainly not.  But his paycheck and veteran status were never going to be ignored, and there is the argument to be made that the team should at least give him a few starts to get it together after his strong finish to 2015.  It's not like Ivan Nova was pitching better than CC then and his 6-shutout innings in his final ST start wasn't enough to erase his previous inconsistency, nor should it be.  Joe adjusted his strategy with CC last year and utilized him as a 5-6 inning pitcher.  There's no reason to think he won't do that again this season and it'll be on Sabathia to prove he can be effective enough in that role to keep his job.  If he bombs, get him out of there.

- The challenge for Joe is going to be figuring out how best to use Nova out of the 'pen.  On paper he should be effective in a shorter role, using his hard sinker and big curveball to generate swings and misses and lots of ground balls.  But that's the same formula he's never been able to master as a starter, so who really knows?  I'd like to see Nova get a shot as the Bryan Mitchell/Adam Warren multi-inning middle reliever and I think that's how Joe will try to use him early to keep him as stretched out as possible.  You never know when another injury could strike and Nova is the clear cut #6 starter behind CC.  But if those injuries don't come, Nova is going to have to prove he can be trusted with some important relief innings at some point.  If he doesn't, he could fade into Bolivian.

- I absolutely love the decision to start Aaron Hicks today against the lefty.  Love it.  It's a smart, simple, logical baseball decision completely removed from things like salary, experience, tenure with the team, etc.  It's the exact opposite of the CC rotation decision and it suggests that Joe and the rest of his staff has learned from last season.  It's not just about giving the really old guys like A-Rod and Beltran extra rest.  It's about giving all the older veteran players rest and playing to the more favorable matchups as a way to facilitate that rest.  Aaron Hicks mashes lefties, Brett Garder and Jacoby Ellsbury really don't.  Hicks is 100% healthy, Gardner and Ellsbury have dealt with slight injuries all spring.  Go with the guy who's the better matchup and give those valuable veterans an extra day off early.

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Monday Morning Musings A Week Away From Opening Day

It's close now, real close.  In less than a week the 2016 MLB regular season will officially be underway, and in a few hours more than a week the same will be true for the New York Yankees.  The roster trimming continues, the speculation about who will and won't nab the last few Opening Day 25-man slots has intensified, and the anticipation of first pitch next Monday is rising.  Here are some assorted thoughts on where the Yankees stand a week away from that first first pitch. - At the start of camp, I didn't think there was any way that Gary Sanchez wasn't coming out of ST as the backup catcher.  I also didn't think there was any way that Rob Refsnyder would come out of camp with a big league roster spot.  Two weeks ago, I completely flip-flopped on both of those thoughts and then Refs took a few ground balls off the dome and everything changed again.  The Yankees have made a clear commitment to get younger and build from within over the last few seasons, but it's good to know that they still recognize when guys aren't quite ready and are willing to give them the time they need to be fully prepared to come up to the show and contribute.  Sanchez has swung a cold bat all spring and Refsnyder needs more work at third base if he's truly going to be an option there for Joe.  There's nothing wrong with letting them work on those things in the lower-pressure environment of Triple-A, especially when there are other options for their positions available.

- We already know who that other option is going to be at backup catcher.  Now with Refs getting sent down yesterday, the question becomes who fills in for him as the final utility infielder.  It's a 2-man race between Pete Kozma and Ronald Torreyes and I'm hoping with every fiber of my being that it ends up being Torreyes.  If ST stats mean anything, he's been the much better hitter this spring (.313/.333/.375 in 32 ABs compared to .167/.231/.250 in 24 ABs for Kozma) and that should give him a leg up.  He's also younger, he's been healthier in camp, and he can play the same mix of positions that Kozma can.  I've said all along that I don't want Kozma on this team.  He's basically a Brendan Ryan clone and I think using a roster spot on a player like that is a waste.  Torreyes comes with a little bit of projectability thanks to his young age and his high-contact approach is a great fit for a part-time bench gig.  If it comes down to these 2 for the last bench spot, Torreyes is the clear choice in my mind.

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Predicting The 2016 Opening Day Roster Part IV

I haven't updated my Opening Day roster prediction since before Spring Training started and a lot has gone down since then.  With less than 2 weeks until Opening Day, I think it's about time for another revision and I think this is going to be the final prediction.  So mark it down, lock it in, here we go.  Barring injuries, here is the official prediction for Joe's 25-man roster on April 4th: Starting Lineup:

1) Jacoby Ellsbury– CF 2) Brett Gardner– LF 3) Alex Rodriguez– DH 4) Mark Teixeira– 1B 5) Carlos Beltran- RF 6) Brian McCann– C 7) Chase Headley– 3B 8) Starlin Castro– 2B 9) Didi Gregorius– SS

Starting Rotation:

1) Masahiro Tanaka 2) Michael Pineda 3) Luis Severino 4) Nathan Eovaldi 5) CC Sabathia

Bench: Austin Romine, Dustin Ackley, Aaron HicksRob Refsnyder

Bullpen: Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, Chasen Shreve,Bryan Mitchell, Ivan Nova, Kirby Yates, Nick Goody

A few notes:

- I have no clue why I had Beltran over A-Rod in the batting order in the first few editions.  That's obviously not happening.

- It looks like it's going to be Austin Romine's backup job based on the last few weeks.  He's playing better than Gary Sanchez, he's getting more work, and he's hitting higher in the batting order.  Again, this ultimately isn't a big deal.  Sanchez will get his turn and there's nothing wrong with using a little more Triple-A time to get him swinging a hot bat again and bump back his free agency.  And if Romine surprises us in the first month and plays well, well that'd be just fine.

- If you would have told me the last time I did this that Rob Refsnyder was going to make the roster as the backup third baseman, I would have laughed in your face.  But who else could it be at this point?  Nobody left in camp to compete with him has hit worth a lick and Refs' added positional flexibility and better stick make him even more valuable to Joe as a bench piece.

- Those first 5 bullpen spots are rock solid in my opinion, and I think Mitchell could already be starting to carve out a role as the #2 righty reliever behind Betances.  After that, though, it's still wide open.  When the dust settles, I think we're going to see Yates and Goody and in there.  Goody has pitched a lot and he's been the most consistent of last year's shuttle group.  He also hasn't walked a batter in 7 appearances.  Yates has been sneaky great so far in ST (4 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K in 4 apps.) and he has 50+ innings of big league experience.  That'll carry some weight with Joe when it comes time to make a decision, so go ahead and call Yates this year's Chris Martin, the guy nobody expected to get a spot when camp opened but ended up sneaking on in the end.

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Thoughts A Few Weeks Into Spring Training

We're still less than a week into the game schedule, but it already feels like Spring Training has been going on for a while.  Does it feel like that to anybody else or am I just a weirdo?  Either way, all the spring storylines are starting to churn into motion with the beginning of games and it's been mostly positive in Yankee camp thus far.  Here are some random thoughts on the early goings on. - Masahiro Tanaka is going to start on Opening Day.  Barring any unforeseen physical setback, that's clearly the plan and one the Yankees started executing with his start yesterday.  It's no coincidence that pitching yesterday lines Tanaka up to start on April 4th.  The Yankees have a timeline laid out for Tanaka to be ready to open the season and Tanaka seems both healthy enough and far enough along in his throwing to stick to it.  He threw a 60+ pitch bullpen session last week and I thought his stuff all had good movement yesterday.  He revved the fastball up into the low 90s and threw a lot of different pitches, so he doesn't appear to be limited at all by the offseason surgery.  As long as he keeps hitting his pitch counts in every start from here on out, he's getting the ball on 4/4.

- Sample sizes are way too small to be meaningful, but Rob Refsnyder has to be making an impression on the coaching staff.  He did a little of everything in yesterday's game, singling, drawing a walk, stealing 2 bases, and making a couple of nice plays at third base.  They were pure reaction plays and Refsnyder made them and made the throws.  That's what the Yankees are looking for.  Refsnyder continues to show that his bat is ready for the big leagues.  If he can just handle his business in the field and make the plays he's supposed to make, I think he gets the last bench spot easily.

- Joe pretty much came out and said it's a 2-horse race for backup catcher between top prospect Gary Sanchez and faded former prospect Austin Romine.  Both of them had notable days yesterday with Sanchez getting the nod to catch Tanaka's first start and Romine coming off the bench to hit 2 doubles.  The Yankees don't appear to be too concerned about losing Carlos Corporan and they've got Eddy Rodriguez and a few other guys to handle things in Double and Triple-A.  I think they're going to end up stashing Sanchez in SWB for a few weeks to push back his free agency, let Romine show what he can do as the season-opening backup catcher, and then try to sneak him back through waivers when it's time to call Sanchez up.  That might not work if Romine plays well, but it's the smart business decision.  One way or another, these next few months are likely Romine's last hurrah as a Yankee.  Hopefully he does well enough to get himself a big league job somewhere else.

- Question.  Does anybody want these last few open bullpen spots?  I know it's early, but a lot of those back end guys have not pitched well out of the gate.  I don't know who I'd take after Miller, Betances, Shreve, Mitchell, and Nova if I had to choose right now.

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Thoughts On The Aroldis Chapman Suspension

Rob Manfred handed down the Aroldis Chapman suspension yesterday, giving us a first look at what kind of teeth the MLB's new domestic violence policy is going to have.  Chapman got 30 regular season games and said he will not appeal the suspension, which runs counter to what he said a week ago..  Chapman will be allowed to continue to participate in Spring Training activities but he will be out of action for over a month once the regular season starts next month, eligible to return on May 9th against the Royals. I've got a few different thoughts about the suspension, most of them unrelated to each other, and my brain isn't back to homeostasis after having to put on a really good cube monkey performance for the boss yesterday.  So if it's alright, I'm going to dish these thoughts out in bite-sized chunks.

- My first reaction to the announcement was surprise.  I actually expected Chapman to get fewer games, like 20.  I thought the lack of charges filed would scare MLB and Manfred off from going heavy-handed on their first suspension under the new policy.  I thought MLB wouldn't want to rock the boat with the players' union and drop a really high number, not when they had the Jose Reyes case to use to establish a steeper penalty benchmark for future cases.  Good on them for not doing that and good on Chapman for not following through on his commitment to appeal.  That wouldn't have been good for the first suspension case either and he deserved to be punished.  I'm sure there was a deal made by both sides to come to the 30 games with no suspension, but whatever.  You're naive if you don't think things like that happen.

- As far as the Yankees are concerned, I think they're just glad that the announcement has been made so they can formulate their plan to start the season without Chapman and move on.  They clearly expected something like this from the minute they made the trade and they've got no shortage of relievers in camp, so that entire bullpen competition becomes even more interesting for the next month.  I'm sure Hal and his stooges are bummed that the suspension isn't long enough to delay Chapman's free agency, but screw them.  Now the Yankees know how long they'll be without their new closer and now they figure out how to cover for him until May 9th.  Those are the more immediately important points from a 2016 Yankee perspective.

- It's worth noting that Chapman will not be allowed to play in MiL games while he's suspended, so he'll be going a month plus without any kind of real game action.  He can use the team complex in Tampa to stay loose and stay sharp, but that's still not even remotely close to pitching in the 9th inning of a live Major League Baseball game.  Will he be game-ready when the suspension is up?  Will the Yankees send him on a quick MiL rehab assignment to knock off some rust?  That's something they're going to have to think about.

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Everybody loves Alex

Picture courtesy of A-Rod's Twitter Welcome aboard the Alex Rodriguez love train, everyone! I am your conductor Stacey Gotsulias. I've been on this train for quite a long time and it is wonderful to see so many passengers coming aboard. Curmudgeonly baseball writers, stubborn Yankees fans and even fans of other teams have been boarding the love train these past few months, and it has been amazing. In fact, the train is so crowded that we may have to add some extra cars...

All kidding aside, the complete turnaround of A-Rod coverage has been nothing short of a miracle.

Last year, all eyes were on him when he arrived at Spring Training. People (mainly the media) were waiting for him to screw up. People (mainly the Yankees' front office) were hoping he'd screw up to the tune of being able to release him from his contract. Of course none of that happened and now we have Alex Rodriguez model citizen in Tampa in 2016.

When talking to the media yesterday, Alex made it a point to acknowledge that this year is a bit easier than 2015.

“I just feel so much better coming into this year,” Rodriguez said. “It’s certainly liberating to come into this season not carrying all this luggage with me all offseason. I’m at ease. I’m in a good place.

He also acknowledged the chatter about his possibly not making the team out of Spring Training last year:

"There was a lot of chatter about if I would make the team or not," Rodriguez said in a staged news conference inside the major league facility. "I know we were talking about [if I would make the team] last year at this time. Look, at age 40 with two hip surgeries, I'm day-to-day. My attitude is to play hard and play as long as my body lets me."

He also spoke about his struggles late in the season:

“I went back and studied the season a little bit. One of the things [was] I started my process November, December and January, workloads for me prepping for spring training,’’ Rodriguez said. “I ran out of gas in August. My energy picked up in September, I just stunk. One of the things going into 2016 is pace myself a little bit more and use spring training as a ramping [up] instead of being ready to go from Day 1.’’

He's talking about how much he loves his clubhouse. He also mentioned being more available to his teammates and acknowledging that wasn't always the case in the past.

"In many ways I was available for my teammates a lot more, whether that's in the batting cage or that's being supportive, or that's going out to lunch or calling team meetings."

And in lighter news, he's posting selfies on Twitter so now we all know that he does, in fact, control his Twitter account.

He's signing autographs and giving out high fives to young children. He's receiving the loudest ovation from fans when he emerges onto the grass at George M. Steinbrenner Field for batting practice. He's hugging rookie players and making their years just by doling out advice.

He's being more thoughtful with his answers when he's being asked questions from the usually tough New York media. And there definitely seems to be less 'foot in mouth' issues with Rodriguez lately which is refreshing since so many other athletes, in all sports, are having that problem.

He's learned a lot the past two years and it's showing.

Alex Rodriguez is the elder statesman of the New York Yankees and it took until 2016 for it to happen, but he finally gets it.

Don't Trost the Yankees, they'll throw you into a Levine

yankeestadiumgate4 It's been a few days since Yankees' COO Lonn Trost said some highly questionable things about the Yankees' new ticketing policies for 2016 and I have been quiet about it because I wanted to take the time to gather my thoughts and express them in a polite and reflective manner. I didn't want to fly off the handle which is what I would have done had I written something on the day when Trost's comments first came out.

Here they are in case you missed them:

“The problem below market at a certain point is that if you buy a ticket in a very premium location and pay a substantial amount of money,” Trost said. “It’s not that we don’t want that fan to sell it, but that fan is sitting there having paid a substantial amount of money for a ticket and (another) fan picks it up for a buck-and-a-half and sits there, and it’s frustrating to the purchaser of the full amount. And quite frankly, the fan may be someone who has never sat in a premium location. So that’s a frustration to our existing fan base.”

Then everything blew up after Randy Levine opened his big smarmy mouth with more comments about the ticket kerfuffle and now I just don't care how angry I sound because I am angry.

Very angry.

Here's what Levine had to say courtesy of friend of the blog Craig Calcaterra:

Levine chose to explain the policy in another way, however. He said that brokers who dump tickets to “unattractive games” for well below the list price are “devaluing the team’s brand.” As if the Yankees themselves are not responsible for the existence of “unattractive games” by virtue of the product on the field, the face price of the tickets, the ballpark experience or some combination of all of those things. Put differently, cheap tickets are only bad for your brand if your brand is all about portraying your product as a luxury good and making games inaccessible for people with tighter budgets. Nice brand, there, Randy.

Levine went on to say that the Yankees have the right to protect its property — meaning its ticket inventory — by putting price floors on resold tickets, “as long as it’s done in the free-market society.” This is about as rich as it gets, as what Levine fails to mention is that the only purpose of a price floor — literally, the very reason you impose one — is because you want to specifically circumvent the free market. A free market that, otherwise, would price the ticket lower than the fixed price the Yankees want.

I just can't with these two. I really can't.

Full disclosure: I was one of those people who defended the new Stadium when it first opened up in 2009. I would disagree with people when they talked about how cold and unfeeling it was. When they said it seemed unfriendly, I scoffed at them. I loved being at the new Stadium. I thought, "What is wrong with these people? How could they not see how much better the new place than the old place?" Sure, the old place was loud, and it seemed so much more intimidating, but it was also dingy and dirty and it needed a major overhaul. I liked being able to go to the ladies room and not be afraid to place my bag on the floor if I needed to. At the old place, I was afraid my bags would catch some disease.

Now in 2016, I finally get it. This wasn't a Stadium that was built for you or for me. It was built for rich people. And the Yankees have done everything in their power to ensure that only rich people will be able to go to the Stadium and to enjoy it. But guess what? The joke's on them because while they've made the Stadium friendly for the elite, attendance has dropped. Why? Well, for starters, the product on the field doesn't match their supposed high quality "game experience" in the rich seats. People have had to sit through games where guys like Brendan Ryan are starting at shortstop and, frankly, who the heck wants to do that?

The Yankees have also missed the playoffs in 2013 and 2014, and made one measly playoff game in 2015 only to be shut out and fall victim to the one and done curse of having to play in the Wild Card game. Oh, right, that all happened because of the ownership's ridiculous idea that the payroll needed to be lowered to some unattainably cheap ceiling that should never happen because they are the goddamn New York Yankees.

You shouldn't have a budget, you fools.

Back to Trost and Levine.

How dare they act as if someone like me doesn't matter because I can't afford to sit in luxury boxes or in the premium seats inside the moat.

How dare they pretend that their battle with StubHub and their eliminating print-at-home tickets is about combating fraud. That's total B.S. and the fans are smarter than Randy Levine gives them credit. No one actually believes that fraud excuse. This is all about StubHub making it easier for people to get into the Stadium to see games. You want to protect your investment and make money? GET A BETTER TEAM ON THE FIELD.

How dare they take a massive dump on fans like me who have shelled out tens of thousands of dollars on season tickets and playoff tickets for 15 years straight because again, I'm not a rich person. I sat in the upper deck for those 15 years. I only had a Sunday package which in the beginning was about 20 games but lowered to 12 or so, perks were taken away and while the prices went up.

Way to alienate the majority of your fanbase! Good job, guys!

It feels like every single day a new story about the Yankees comes out and it's just so embarrassing.

First we have the Aroldis Chapman signing, then the ticket kerfuffle, then there's this sign on the clubhouse door that was copied verbatim from Crossfit.

Oh, and then earlier today, a story came out with this headline, "Yankees tell players to be less like Cam Newton, more like Russell Wilson."

At first glance it seems like it would be an eye roll worthy piece, but the actual article isn't as bad as the headline makes it out to be. The Yankees basically want the players to be accountable after a loss and to do what Russell Wilson did after the Super Bowl in 2015, not what Cam Newton did a few weeks ago.

So since the Yankees want their players to do that for them, I'd like for the Yankees to do something for me. Please stop embarrassing me, and the rest of the fan base. Stop making it hard to justify being a fan of yours and to defend your ridiculousness.

It's one thing for fans of other teams to hate the Yankees because they're winning all the time, it's another for them to hate the Yankees because the Yankees as a brand, and the people who represent them, are doing and saying awful things.

Thoughts After The First Few Days Of Spring Camp

We're still a few days away from the first full-squad workout, but there's already plenty to talk about in Yankee camp this spring.  Pitchers and catchers have all arrived, press conferences have been held, arms are loosening, gloves are popping, and hills are being run.  The spring story cycle is only going to quicken once the rest of the team shows up on Wednesday, so here are my thoughts on the major stories from the first few days. - Joe held his big camp-opening presser last Thursday, and I couldn't help but notice the number of beat guys who commented on the "awkward" or "uncomfortable" nature of what he said regarding the Aroldis Chapman situation.  Maybe I've just gotten a little dull to the over-dramatic MSM spin, but did I miss something?  There was nothing there.  Joe deferred to MLB and the commissioner's investigation when asked about the suspension, acknowledged that it was a serious issue, and said he wanted to get to know Chapman better before judging him.  What's awkward about any of that?  What else was he supposed to say?  The new domestic violence policy is a big talking point this spring and for good reason, but do we really need to be injecting more drama into a manager's press conference answers to drive that point home?  Doesn't the seriousness of the subject matter already speak for itself?

- It's a small detail, but it was good to find out that Teix has been running with no issues since the beginning of the year.  I remember being a little bit worried when that timeline was first laid out, so having it confirmed that he's on target with his rehab and ready to start baseball activities this week is reassuring.  Teix is easily the most important position player on this team and most difficult to replace.

- Speaking of which, it sounds like it's only a matter of time before the Yankees announce they've signed Chris Parmelee, who dropped this on Instagram yesterday.  Parmelee is a lefty-hitting first baseman who has basically settled into a Quad-A depth role at this stage of his career.  He's a .245/.311/.396 hitter in just over 1,000 career MLB plate appearances, but he did hit .314/.386/.444 in Triple-A last year.  The Yankees need some insurance for Teix with Greg Bird on the shelf and Parmelee fits that role well.  I imagine he got a MiL deal with a ST invite, and hopefully there's no opt-out clause built into that.  I have to imagine Parmelee would welcome the chance to play regularly in Triple-A and be the next in line for a call up should the injury bug strike.

- Via Chad Jennings, we found out yesterday that Carlos Corporan does have an opt-out in his MiL deal and that's yet another interesting wrinkle to add to the Gary Sanchez situation.  The Yankees are likely to lose both Corporan and Austin Romine when spring camp ends, and that would leave them pretty thin at the upper levels of their system.  Knowing that, I think I could see the Yankees keeping one of the vets to open the season as McCann's backup and stashing Sanchez in Triple-A if he struggles in any way during ST games.  It would be a safe, smart play considering the depth hit they're likely to take, and I'm sure the front office would have no problem avoiding some service time accrual and pushing Sanchez's free agency back a year.

- All eyes and cell phone cameras were on Saturday's bullpen session, when big hosses Chapman, Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, and CC Sabathia all threw.  That's a lot of dude right there.  Chapman was understandably the highlight and he drew plenty of praise from the beat crew for the appearance and sound of his stuff.  Regardless of what you think about him as a person, he's going to be really fun to watch.

- Same goes for Betances, and I'm interested in seeing how Joe uses him this spring.  Remember last year when there was all the early hullabaloo about Betances' velocity and command and it took him a few weeks to get going in the regular season?  Betances said he felt like he didn't get to throw enough in the spring and that he likes to work more because he believes it helps his mechanics and command.  Coming into camp this year he's saying again that he wants to work on his fastball command, and I wonder if Joe will give him a little more time to do that over the next month and change.  Doesn't have to be in games necessarily, just let him throw a few more bullpens.  Betances has shown he can carry a big workload, so if he feels more comfortable and better prepared with more work, let him have it.

- I mentioned this on Twitter yesterday, but I was surprised to read so much talk about top pitching prospect James Kaprielian possibly making it to the Majors in 2016 as if that would be a positive for the organization.  Don't get me wrong, I think Kaprielian is going to be a stud and I think he'll make himself into a universal top 50 prospect with his performance this season.  And if he is that good, the Yankees should definitely not waste time keeping him in the lower levels.  But if he makes it all the way to the show this year, that probably means a bunch of guys ahead of him on the depth chart got hurt.  I'm talking multiple guys in the Triple-A and big league rotations, and that would certainly not be a good thing.  I'm all for considering Kap for a rotation break-in in 2017, but if he's pitching in the big leagues at any point this year, something has gone horribly wrong.