Monday, February 19, 2018

CLUBHOUSE CULTURE: IT MEANS EVERYTHING

Source: Lynne Sladky | AP

As Spring Training 2018 unfolds with a number of first time managers, I might add, it will be interesting to see whose clubhouse can lead the best.  Yes, I said lead, not hit, not pitch, but lead.  Because behind the clutch hitting and stellar pitching, is a foundation, which supports players taking risks and giving it everything they have. Positive clubhouse culture provides the skeleton of success and this year, it is going to be a change agent when it comes to winning.

Source: NJ.com

"In Culturize, author and education leader Jimmy Casas shares insights into what it takes to cultivate a community of learners who embody the innately human traits our world desperately needs, such as kindness, honesty, and compassion. His stories reveal how these "soft skills" can be honed while meeting and exceeding academic standards of twenty-first-century learning," totes Amazon about the book published in late fall 2017.  Time and time again we have discussed the importance of clubhouse culture and its value to a team.  And when we reflect on the "students" of the game entering Major League Baseball seemingly younger and younger, the connection between Casas's book on culture and baseball could not be more clear.

Source: Twitter

Do baseball players need to be kind, honest and compassionate?  Yes. As Bryan Hoch said in his interview with our BYB skipper, Robert Casey yesterday in his piece BYB EXCLUSIVE: BRYAN HOCH, AUTHOR OF "THE BABY BOMBERS," "What you saw in the dugout with the thumbs-down and the Toe-Night Show stuff was the same kind of vibe we were seeing in the clubhouse. It's the Yankees, so there was a certain responsible atmosphere that still needed to be in place, but there was a much more youthful vibe. They laugh with each other and they pull for each other."

Source: Lynne Sladky | AP

Yankee manager Aaron Boone shared his vision for culture in his first press conference of spring training last week.  "I think it’s having that ability, and maybe it’s a little bit of an art form, but to have the ability to connect in the clubhouse with the guys, to have that trust factor, to have that your players understand that you do care about them, you’re putting the New York Yankees in this case in the forefront , as we’re going to do in the end always what’s best for the New York Yankees," reported NY Daily News.

Source: NY Daily News

Soft skills cannot be underestimated in a ball club, particularly one that is looking to shift its culture, much like we see with the NY Mets and their new leadership under Mickey Callaway and the Philadelphia Phillies with their new skipper, Gabe Kapler.  "I'm going to show them day in and day out, by the decisions I make, the way I communicate with them, that I truly, truly care about them," stated Callaway as reported by Golf Digest's The Loop.

Source: STEVE NESIUS

Kapler has filled the Phillies' spring training quarters with the inspiration of music, stating that music motivates and re-culturizes the clubhouse. "Ultimately, when we’re surrounded by music, we feel good,” said Kapler, whose father is a music teacher and a classically trained pianist. “We smile more, we’re more relaxed at the plate. There’s science behind this. It’s been studied. Workplaces are happier and they are more inspired when music is playing,” reported the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Source: NJ.com

The culture of an organization is the backbone of its success.  Besides warming up arms and bats, teams should be looking to warm up their culture much like we are seeing in the new manager strategies of Boone, Callaway and Kapler.  Clubhouse culture is going to be a main component to whose team is on top come October.  May the best culture win and may that culture be the Yankees.



--Suzie Pinstripe
BYB Managing Editor
Twitter: @suzieprof






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Sunday, February 18, 2018

BYB EXCLUSIVE: BRYAN HOCH, AUTHOR OF "THE BABY BOMBERS"


With every year Bleeding Yankee Blue is on this planet, we meet new and exciting people.  I've spoken fondly of the journalists that I grew up reading that I am now friends with.  Pete Caldera being one of them.  I've chatted with Yankees present and past and we as a unit here at BYB have met some amazing readers and fans as well.  It's been an incredible journey.

Recently I reached out to Yankees Beat writer Bryan Hoch.  We admire him here at BYB. We follow each other on Twitter, and... as nutty as it sounds... we read each other's stuff.  Yup, a Yankees Beat writer reads BYB.  Who would have thunk it... but it's true.  Bryan Hoch, a well established sports writer has an open mind, and while he rubs elbows with Yankees every day, even he enjoys the pages of BYB.  How flattering.

Hoch has a new book which will be released the beginning of March.  But he was nice enough to give us some time here at BYB and answer some of our questions.  We are happy to share  our interview with Hoch, and promote his upcoming book, The Baby Bombers.  Be sure to check it out. I loved this chat and I hope you do too.

BYB: You have been the guy that Yankee fans and baseball fans alike will come to when there's important news about our Bombers. How did you score the gig as Yankees beat writer for MLB.com in 2007, and is it everything you hoped it would be?

Bryan Hoch: Thank you very much! It has been a dream job. Long story short, I always loved baseball and writing, and was able to merge them into a career. I was freelancing for MLB.com in the mid-2000s, covering the Mets, Yankees and the road teams that came into New York. While covering the 2006 Winter Meetings, I heard that the Yankees beat was about to have an opening – Mark Feinsand, who is now back with MLB.com as my teammate, was leaving for a newspaper gig. I made sure that everyone knew that I would be extremely interested in taking that spot. They called me just after Christmas with an offer, and this is true: I accepted before even asking what the position would pay!

(Oct. 7, 2017 - Source: Mike Stobe/Getty Images North America)
BYB: You've seen the Yankees as a much older than they are today. What was the feeling in that clubhouse this season with guys like Judge, Sanchez, Clint Frazier and Luis Severino? What's the energy like?

Bryan Hoch: It was a fun group to be around, and I think that showed on the field. What you saw in the dugout with the thumbs-down and the Toe-Night Show stuff was the same kind of vibe we were seeing in the clubhouse. It's the Yankees, so there was a certain responsible atmosphere that still needed to be in place, but there was a much more youthful vibe. They laugh with each other and they pull for each other. Winning breeds that atmosphere, but so does the fact that many of them came through the system together. It was one of the more positive teams I've experienced.

Photo: SNY
BYB: I see a lot of similarities between Derek Jeter and Greg Bird with the way Bird speaks to the press. Who do you find to be the easiest to talk to in the clubhouse and the most accessible in the new Yankee clubhouse? How about when the Core Four was there... and why?

Bryan Hoch: Hmm. A few weeks before Joe Girardi said it in that press conference, I remember listening to Aaron Judge and thinking, "Wow, he's Jeter."


Not in physical stature or on the field, of course, but in terms of that cadence and thoughtful nature. Jeter played his entire career in New York without embarrassing himself and I won't be surprised if Judge does too. It's hard to pick just one for easiest, so I'll mention Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia since they've been around the longest. As far as the Core Four, I'll tell you a quick story. Sometime around 2012, the Yankees are in Kansas City and Mariano Rivera calls me over to his locker. Someone had told Mo that I had been dating the same girl for four years and didn't seem particularly close to popping the question.

Photo: New York Daily News
For 10 to 15 minutes, Mariano counseled me one-on-one about the importance of marriage and settling down. I've never forgotten that chat. And yes, we did eventually get married … we have a beautiful 1 ½ year old daughter (and another baby on the way this summer!).

BYB: Did you ever meet George Steinbrenner? If so, tell the BYB audience about the man.

Photo: New York Daily News
Bryan Hoch: Yes, but only briefly. By the time I came on the beat in 2007, Steinbrenner was already letting the young elephants into the tent, so I've dealt much more with his children – Hal, Hank, Jennifer and Jessica. They take a lot of pride in running the Yankees as a family business. I marvel at the stories that the newspaper writers from the 1970s and 1980s can tell about The Boss in his prime, and I can't imagine the stress those guys were under. It was an era without cell phones, so you'd leave a message for Steinbrenner first thing in the morning and then wait by that phone all day. You never knew what Steinbrenner was going to say, but if he called back, you'd better not miss it. That was your back page, and sometimes the front!


Photo: Newsday
BYB: This Spring Training is gearing up to be a bit of a circus with Giancarlo Stanton coming to the Yanks. You have the inside scoop about a lot of thing when it comes to Yankee rumors. If I would have told you last year that the Yanks would be getting Stanton, would you have believed me? 

Bryan Hoch: Nope. I'm not sure I would have believed you if you told me that a week before the trade. I didn't expect him to play for the Marlins in 2018, but for all the world, it looked like he was going to the Cardinals or the Giants. There was a point in time when even Brian Cashman thought that it wasn't going to happen. I wrote an offseason preview where I listed Stanton to the Yankees as a long-shot blockbuster deal that could happen, but no, I didn't expect to be covering that press conference in December. And let's all remember – Jim Leyritz broke the news on Twitter!

BYB: OK, I know you gotta work with all these baseball insiders, and I know you read BYB a lot and know how much I hate the term 'baseball insider". Tell me, who's one of your favorite insiders.

Bryan Hoch: Just one? People should understand the long hours those guys put in. If you ever get a chance, walk through the lobby at the GM Meetings or the Winter Meetings, those events where all 30 teams are in the same hotel. I guarantee that if you go through there at 2 a.m., the national guys like Ken Rosenthal, Jon Heyman, Tom Verducci and Joel Sherman are working the room, hammering away on their cell phones, breaking news. Sometimes I wonder if they sleep at all.


BYB: When you look at Yankee players these days, have you ever seen a guy like Judge in your lifetime watching this game? If so, who?


Bryan Hoch: In a Yankees uniform? I guess Dave Winfield would be the closest comparison, because he was a multi-sport athlete who played right field, but I think Judge's power already exceeds that – and I don't think Winfield would disagree. Around the majors, Stanton is the obvious choice. On the day Judge was drafted, he mentioned that Stanton was someone he modeled his game after. It's going to be a lot of fun to see them hit in the same lineup.

BYB: Growing up, was sports writing always a passion? Tell us about your journey.


Bryan Hoch: Absolutely. As I mentioned earlier, I loved baseball from a very young age, and also had interest in journalism. I can remember working up a newspaper for my fourth-grade class, not because anyone asked me to, but because I wanted to see if I could. Along those lines, in 1996 I launched what you'd today know as a fan blog. It was a Web site devoted to my favorite team at the time, the Mets, and it gained a fairly large following. Remember, this is the Wild West dial-up days of the Web; there wasn't even a Mets.com until 1999. That helped me get an internship with the Mets in 2000, right out of high school. Once I walked behind the scenes at a big league ballpark, I never wanted that door to close.

BYB: What's more fun, cover the Mets or Yanks? And why


Bryan Hoch: The great thing about New York baseball is that people care about both teams, and you know that your stories are going to be read. I made some great memories at Shea Stadium; I ran on the field as a photographer after they clinched the pennant in 2000, was there for Mike Piazza's homer after 9/11, the Game 7 vs. the Cardinals in 2006 (happiest, and saddest, I ever saw that ballpark), rubbed shoulders with Hall of Famers and legends. That said, I always thought there was something special about being in the press box at the old Yankee Stadium. Here's a story. My seat was next to the exit, so when there were two outs in the ninth inning, Bob Sheppard would stand right next to me – book in hand, ready to dash to the elevator. If the batter got on and the game continued, he'd sigh and walk back to the booth. "Catcher, Ken-ji Joh-ji-ma." Then Sheppard would be next to me again. Once that final out went on the board, I'd hear the opening bars of "New York, New York," then look to my right. He'd be gone.


BYB: What's the best quality about a pitcher like Sonny Gray?

Bryan Hoch: I guess I'd say that he's a battle-tested innings-eater who has shown flashes of brilliance. There was a lot of talk that the Yankees had picked up an ace; that wasn't exactly true. He was the A's ace, and he was pitching like one right before the trade, but most would agree that Gray is a solid No. 2 starter or a very good No. 3. Either way, his contract situation made that a smart move for Brian Cashman. Gray wasn't picked up just for 2017, but for '18 and '19 too.


BYB: The Yankees acquired QB Russell Wilson from the Rangers. It seemed to come out of nowhere? What’s your take on this move? Be honest.

Bryan Hoch: It should be a fun distraction for Spring Training. To me, it's no different than when the Yankees have had Nick Saban or Jason Garrett talk to teams in the spring. Wilson has played on the biggest stages in sports, and I'm sure there are valuable experiences in preparation or training that he can share. My understanding is that Wilson will be in uniform during games and workouts, but they aren't promising him much (if any) playing time. If he gets a few ninth-inning at-bats or plays an inning in the field, I don't see the harm. I mean, 60-year-old Billy Crystal got an at-bat once. The franchise survived.

Photo: SI.com
BYB: Looking at the 2009 season, it was a team where everything clicked. After seeing our season last year... what can you tell our audience about this upcoming season? What do you see as the Yankees strengths and weaknesses in 2018?


Bryan Hoch: I think there's a very good chance that we look back at the '17 Yankees as the weakest roster of the next five years or so, which is saying something. They're going to score a ton of runs as long as they can keep Judge, Stanton, Sanchez, Bird, Gregorius and Gardner reasonably healthy, and I won't be surprised if Torres and Andujar play a big role. The starting pitching has plenty of question marks, but that's not uncommon, and the bullpen is elite again. How often are they going to be asking guys to go seven or eight innings with that 'pen? I'd expect a lot of home runs, some quick hooks and a heavy workload for the relief crew.


BYB: OK. Free plug about your new book, The Baby Bombers. Why will people want to read your book?

Bryan Hoch: Thank you. I hope they will! The concept was pitched to me shortly after the Home Run Derby as a Judge biography, but over the next few weeks, I realized there was a deeper story to tell. The best way to describe "The Baby Bombers" is that it traces how the Derek Jeter Yankees successfully transitioned into the Aaron Judge Yankees, with many details that have not been reported previously. Who were the Yankees after the 'Core Four?' And how does a large-market team respond after years of missing the playoffs with an aging, expensive roster? To answer those questions and more, I spoke to many people both inside and outside the organization -- players, front-office executives, scouts, coaches, former players and other personnel. It also digs into the current roster. We go back to college with Judge, high school with Bird, the academies of the Dominican with Sanchez and Severino. Whether you're a casual Yankees fan or you watch every game, I wanted this to bring readers behind the scenes into the clubhouse and the front office to see how a Major League Baseball team operates in today's game. More than anything, I believe readers should come away with an understanding of how special this group could be.

BYB: Finally, so you read Bleeding Yankee Blue? What do you think?

Bryan Hoch: I do! I try to read everything out there as much as possible, and I've found that fan blogs like BYB are a great window into what Yankees fans are thinking at any given time. I love the passion and authenticity. You can tell that these are the die-hards whose evening revolves around nine innings, 162 games a year. As someone who landed on the Web in similar fashion, writing about something I loved without the expectation of making a dime, I completely understand and respect that dedication!

I want to thank Hoch for being a stand up guy and taking the time out of his incredibly busy schedule to answer some questions for the BYB audience.  Hope you all will check out Bryan's new book, The Baby Bombers, out officially March 6th, but you can pre-order on Amazon now.  CLICK HERE.





Saturday, February 17, 2018

FRAZIER'S ON A MISSION


We have too many outfielders.  We just do.  We have Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton and Jacoby Ellsbury.  Add in Clint Frazier who... we can assume would start the season in AAA when you look at the list we have and the money we are already shelling out to guys like Ells. Logically, Frazier doesn't fit.  But the Youth movement is strong these days.  Plus... we have a new manager.  Plus... I love the balls and emotion and passion we have from a guy like Frazier.  Hell... maybe his persistence and Spring Training game play will carve out a role for him. I hope so.

The New York Post has this...

“'I don’t want people to talk about my hair,' Frazier said. 'I want them to talk about my game. I want them to talk about how I play and who I am as a person.'

(July 6, 2017 - Source: Mike Stobe/Getty Images North America)
Nevertheless, Frazier’s confidence remains, as he showed in a conversation with his new manager. 'I made the comment to Aaron Boone today, I said I could play center field,' Frazier said. 'I said, ‘Don’t get too caught up in the advance metrics. Just use the eye test. You’ve got some throw-back in you, so just give me the chance.’ He shook his head, so I don’t know what he meant. I’ve played more center in my career than the corners. I know I can go out there and catch the ball. … I think nowadays, if you hit, you play.'”

David J. Phillip | AP
I mean for me... this may be the best quote of Spring Training so far.  And if I'm Boone, I'm alittle stunned, but I think really clearly about what Frazier is saying to me.  It won't be easy though.  Hicks wants it just as bad, and ultimately that's who Frazier will be in direct competition with.

Hicks said this just a week ago...

Photo: Getty Images
"'I want to be the starting center fielder for the Yankees, of course,' Hicks said Friday at the team’s minor league facility. “I feel that’s the position I can play every day and be successful and help this team win.'”

Photo: Getty Images
It's all in how they play the game.  I do know one thing though... I haven't heard a thing of what Ellsbury wants. That bothers me. 

I mean, we are paying him a ton of money... at least act like you deserve it. You know what I mean?





THAIRO ESTRADA WAS SHOT, GUYS

Enough with the guns.  What the hell is going on in this world?


If you didn't hear about Yankee prospect Thairo Estrada, he was shot in the hip in an attempted robbery.  Makes me sick.  Hardball Talk has this...

Photo: MiLB.com
"...Boone announced this afternoon that Yankees infield prospect Thairo Estrada was shot in the hip during a robbery attempt in his native Venezuela at the end of January. The good news: Estrada is in Tampa at Yankees camp and is recovering OK. He’s expected to be fully recovered soon and is expected to play the bulk of the season."

What a scary thing.  I know it's Venezuela, but with this horrible tragedy in Florida this week and 17 innocent people dead at a school... enough is enough.  We need to love each other. This is insanity.

Get well soon Thairo. 

My thoughts and prayers are with those wonderful families in Florida.


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Friday, February 16, 2018

HEY VERLANDER! YOU FORGOT SOMETHING...

“I think the American League goes through us.” - Justin Verlander

Okay. He's not wrong. Actually, I think it would be freaking weird if he didn't think that. It's not really a big deal even though the media has been running with this since Wednesday. The Astros are the reigning World Series Champions so he should be riding high with confidence right now but we all know which team won the last back to back Championships.....even Verlander does.


This is the year we are supposed to be contenders again. Last year was never supposed to happen according to those "experts" but they were wrong. They forgot they should never underestimate the Yankees so Verlander shouldn't and I know isn't about to make the same mistake.


I'm glad Verlander is feeling confident. I'm also glad that baseball recognizes that we will be force to be reckoned with. Some are even calling us "favorites" which is pretty cool to see after just one year earlier we were in rebuilding mode and not expected to do much. I get why Verlander reacted to this:

Hell I even understand this from the New York Post:
"Everyone’s got to say stuff to get views or get likes or whatever,” Verlander said. “Obviously I think we’re the team to beat. I don’t really care about [someone’s] opinion, especially people that don’t play. Everything happens between the lines."


So let's see it play out on the field! I'm up for the challenge and so are the Yankees. CC Sabathia is definitely ready to answer that challenge. He's always ready to compete and he's not taking any of Verlander's bait. Our young guys have some experience now and Giancarlo Stanton's bat are about to make some noise so I am glad that Verlander is already talking his big game.

Here is what Verlander is going to realize and I think it will be sooner rather than later.....the Astros ARE a good team and have their big guns returning. The Yankees are a good team with a big addition and the American League West has also made some important additions.


The Astros are going to have to first outmatch everyone in their division again. I will be watching the AL West closely this year because I think that if the LA Angels can finally overcome their injury catastrophes from previous seasons they are going to give the Astros a run for their money at least offensively and if Shohei Ohtani adapts to Major League Baseball and is successful things could get interesting. The offseason may have been slow....if not dead but the Angels at least made some moves to improve their club.


No one should ever underestimate the Yankees. As disappointed as it was to end 2017 just one game away from a World Series berth the Yankees reminded everyone not to discard us. Experts said the Cleveland Indians would not only beat us but potentially sweep us. They were wrong we came back to win games three, four and five and the Indians were a damn good team and they will be again.

Then the Yankees did it again with the Astros. They made easy work to pass the Red Sox in the ALDS but that wasn't the case with us. We were down 2-0 and came back to force a game 7. The Astros had a hard time getting past us. We made them work for that World Series berth and Championship.


Verlander has all the confidence now but the MLB season is 162 games long and the “team to beat” is always just the one you are facing that night. You have to get to the postseason first. The Yankees could win the World Series without winning a single game over the Astros this season and then would become the “team to beat” without actually beating the previous “team to beat.” Did I use that phrase enough? Food for thought even in a very young Spring Training season.

So Verlander wants to be like the Yankees and win back to back rings. That's cute but we aren't going to make it easy for you. See ya in April!




--Jeana Bellezza
BYB Managing Editor
Twitter: @nyprincessj




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Thursday, February 15, 2018

JAIME GARCIA GONZO...AND I'M FINE WITH THAT

Photo: Getty Images
I didn't really know why we picked up Jaime Garcia in the first place. I mean, I know, he's a lefty and all teams need lefty pitching... but we didn't really need the dude. But now... officially he's on another team.  Cool.

The Associated Press has the story:

Photo: Getty Images
"Left-hander Jaime Garcia and the Toronto Blue Jays have agreed to a $10 million, one-year contract that includes a 2019 team option. Garcia gets $8 million this year as part of the deal announced Thursday and Toronto has a $10 million option with a $2 million buyout.

He can earn an additional $2 million annually in performance bonuses based on innings and would get the full amount at 180."

Good luck Mr. Garcia.

By the way...


Here's Gonzo.