Help Wanted: Managers for Houston, Boston and Queens…

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Managerial Dismissals in Triplicate…

This has been quite the week in the Major League Baseball. I thought Januarys were for the ‘quiet calm’ before players begin heading to their respective Spring Training homes in Florida and Arizona next month.

In the span of four days this week, three Major League managers had lost their jobs.

Jim Crane, owner of the Houston Astros, fired manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow almost immediately after MLB announced the penalties on Monday against the Astros for their involvement with the electronic sign stealing cheating scandal. Like New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, who sat out the 2012 NFL Season as punishment for his role in the infamous bounty scandal, I thought Hinch would have a one-year vacation and return to the dugout in 2021. Fortunately, Crane stepped up to do the right thing. Sever ties. I have no doubt Hinch is a good manager, but he allowed cheating on his watch and that’s inexcusable. Perhaps he’ll get another shot to manage one day but for now, it’s time to pay the piper.

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Photo Credit: David Zalubowski, AP

On Tuesday, before MLB has completed their investigation of the Boston Red Sox for cheating allegations, the team announced they had mutually agreed to part ways with manager Alex Cora. Credit to the Red Sox for getting in front of this. Based on the MLB report, Cora was a ringleader for the electronic cheating conspiracy. Unlike Hinch, who simply knew about it and did nothing, Cora’s fingerprints were all over the ideas and actions that led to the cheating schemes. I will be very disappointed if Cora’s suspension does not exceed the one year suspension given to Hinch. Many are calling for a lifetime ban. I might not go that far but it should be for multiple years.  We do not yet know the details of how he implemented his dishonest policies with the Red Sox during their championship run in 2018 but clearly Cora has brought great shame to the game of Baseball. Say what you will about Red Sox owner John Henry but like Crane, I am glad he took action against a guy who was very popular with the Boston players and fans. Singling Cora out, his actions are worse than anything Pete Rose ever did and we know that Pete received a lifetime ban. I think Rose is a miserable human being but I guess if Cora does not receive a lifetime ban, MLB should perhaps reconsider their ban on Rose. Personally, I am okay if Rose, one of the best players I’ve seen play, does not make the Hall of Fame until the year after his death, but maybe this whole electronic cheating scandal is causing me to soften on my hardline stance against Rose. Cora is clearly the worst of the two.

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Photo Credit: Jim Davis, Boston Globe Staff

For a couple of days, there was speculation about whether or not New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran would retain his job. Holding the position for only two months, I am sure Beltran had been so excited to go to Spring Training with the Mets as their new manager, achieving a huge professional goal for his post-playing career. By Thursday, it was over. In another “mutual” decision, the Mets and Beltran parted ways. Some believe that Beltran could have kept his job if he had come out publicly to explain his role in the cheating scandal and to plead for contrition and absolution. As much as I had admired Beltran, the player, I felt it was impossible for Beltran to continue in a leadership role. As the only player identified in the MLB report, he was heavily involved with Cora in developing the schemes that have compromised the integrity of the game. If a manager cannot uphold trust and integrity, there’s no place in the game for him. As such, I felt Beltran had to go. I am glad the Mets reached the same conclusion even if they somewhat bungled their telephone press conference in making the announcement.The Mets will be the Mets. On one hand, you do feel bad for Beltran who was stripped of a dream of a lifetime, but on the other hand, he is responsible for his own actions.

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Photo Credit: Rich Schultz, Getty Images

The biggest losers of this mess might be the Mets. The Mets organization was not an active participant in the cheating scandal like the Astros and Red Sox. During the off-season, they had a chance to get a good manager in former Yankees manager Joe Girardi who preferred to stay in New York. But for whatever reason, they opted to take a chance on the inexperienced Beltran and now they’ve paid dearly for it. I’d like to see Mets bench coach Hensley Meulens finally get his managerial opportunity but Buck Showalter would be a great choice too. While I am 100% on Team Aaron Boone now, Meulens was the guy I had wanted for Yankees manager when it was announced after the 2017 season that Girardi and the Yankees would be parting ways. In retrospect, particularly with how this off-season has played out, I am so very glad that Aaron Boone is manager of the New York Yankees. But I digress. Meulens is a great baseball man and deserves an opportunity. I think he would be very good for the Mets or any other MLB team as their leader.

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While I look back at 2017 as water under the bridge at this point, I totally get the fans who feel the Houston Astros should be forced to vacate their World Series championship. At this point, there’s no way to say the Yankees or the Los Angeles Dodgers should be anointed champions. It would be very hollow at this point. I feel bad for the guys who lost chances for a legitimate championship like CC Sabathia and Clayton Kershaw. Even Todd Frazier expressed regret this week for what could have been with the 2017 Yankees. But over two years later, there’s no way to settle a debate about who should have been the champions. At the very least, MLB should have taken the championship away from the Astros since it was dishonestly achieved. I know there is not a precedent in MLB for the removal of a championship, but this is a special circumstance that showed the Astros used an unfair advantage to claim the crown.

I will be glad when MLB completes its investigation of the Red Sox and we can move on. I am hopeful MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred makes it clear that future violations will not be tolerated and will automatically result in lifetime bans. It is very important to bring the trust, confidence, and integrity back into the game. No man, no team is bigger than the sport. This has been the darkest chapter of Major League Baseball in my lifetime which is significant considering many of us lived through the era of PEDs and steroids. Baseball is better than this, and we shall overcome.

In other news, the report about the possible renaming of East 161st Street for the one block in front of Yankee Stadium to Jeter Street received some buzz this week before all hell broke loose about the cheating scandal.  I am not sure what I think about this. There have been so many great Yankees. I know Derek Jeter ranks among the greatest Yankee legends but he’s not bigger than a few of the names. I also see him as the CEO of the Miami Marlins. I don’t really care to name a street after the CEO of another team regardless of what he did for us.  Jeter is going into the Hall of Fame as a Yankee.  His number is retired by the Yankees and he has his place in Memorial Park. It should be enough, in my opinion.

I still have my doubts that Jeter will be an unanimous selection like Mariano Rivera last year. He may be leading the vote with 100% right now, but I think the final votes will bring at least one voter opting to exclude Jeter. Sure, I get the decision to re-name River Ave after Rivera. He was the greatest closer in MLB history and the first unanimous Hall of Fame selection. However, let’s face it, Jeter was not the greatest to ever play his position. We owe him very much for the great years he gave us and what he meant to so many Yankee teams and championships, but I don’t feel that it extends to naming the street by Yankee Stadium after him. I know, I was never Jeter’s biggest fan and most of you feel that he is a God, but I simply feel the Yankees are more important than any single player. Jeter was great but today we have Gleyber Torres and Aaron Judge who both have chances to chisel their names alongside the great legends who have worn pinstripes. I appreciate what they mean today and can do for the Yankees going forward.  Are we going to name future streets after them when all is said and done? Where does it end? I already think the Yankees have retired too many numbers.

Outside of signing Gerrit Cole and bringing back Brett Gardner, it’s been a very quiet off-season for the Yankees. LHP Stephen Tarpley is the latest ex-Yankee after he was designated for assignment when Gardy’s deal was officially announced and subsequently dealt to the Miami Marlins for third baseman James Nelson. Nelson has had a few disappointing years in minor league ball since opening some eyes in 2017. Last year, he hit .228/.279/.296 with four homers and 36 RBIs for the Marlins’ Class-A affiliate in Jupiter, FL. He may never amount to anything but the guy is only 22. I am interested to see if the Yankee instructors can help him tap into some of the potential he showed a few years ago. It’s not like the Yankee Farm System is overflowing with great third base prospects. I’d love for Nelson to achieve success with the Yankees. The organization has certainly been good for former Marlins prospect Michael King. I’d include Domingo German but for obvious reasons, I will abstain.

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Nelson was Miami’s 2017 Minor League Player of the Year but hasn’t been the same since he suffered a meniscus injury prior to the 2018 season. Nelson has ties to a former Yankee. He is the nephew of Chris Nelson who played 10 games at third base for the Yankees in May 2013.

The Yankees get credit for the first full-time woman coach when they brought in minor league hitting coach Rachel Balkovec, but the San Francisco Giants one-upped them they announced the hiring of Alyssa Nakken as the first full-time female coach at the Major League level. Nakken and Mark Hallberg, who also was promoted by the Giants to MLB assistant, will not be in the dugout during games, but they’ll assist the other coaches during pre-game and will help foster “a clubhouse culture that promotes high performance through, among other attributes, a deep sense of collaboration and team”, according to Giants manager Gabe Kapler. Congrats to Alyssa and I look forward to the day that she is in uniform during games as part of Kapler’s staff if she proves to be successful in her role.

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As for former Giants player Aubrey Huff who criticized the team for Nakken’s promotion, STFU. I think this is a great step forward for MLB and I am excited to see what groundbreakers Balkovec and Nakken can do and hopefully open doors for others through their achievements.

As always, Go Yankees!

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