By Adam Wenkoff ’18
By Adam Wenkoff ’18
By Jack Caldwell ’18
When Jacoby Ellsbury suffered a concussion after tumbling into Yankee Stadium’s outfield wall, it seemed like the Yankees could be in trouble. After all, Ellsbury had been a key cog in the unorthodox Yankee lineup, providing speed and consistency in the cleanup spot. However, the outfield has been hitting bombs in the Bronx, with starting outfielders Aaron Judge, Brett Gardner, and Aaron Hicks looking better than Ellsbury. With an untradeable contract, and outfield prospect Dustin Fowler knocking on the door, the Yanks have their hands full. So, what’s the next step in the Bomber outfield conundrum?
Starting pitching is key for this Yankees squad to have a bright future, short and long term. Currently, New York lacks a definitive ace, and there doesn’t seem to be a starter that they can depend on in postseason situations. Although Severino has been stellar, I don’t think anyone would feel completely comfortable with a 23-year old making a playoff start. With Pineda, it has been an absolute roller coaster ride through his Bronx tenure, and he has yet to appear in the playoffs. Tanaka has been anything but an ace, and the rest of the staff is still somewhat shaky. The Yankees are short on starters, but overloaded with outfield talent. It’s nearly impossible to build a contender entirely in-house in baseball, as there are too many needs and not enough draft picks to disperse evenly. With weak free agency coming up in terms of pitchers, that leaves the only reasonable option as trading outfielders for starting pitching. The prime contender for this move? Clint Frazier.
If you’re a Yankees fan, you know the name Clint Frazier. The highly-touted prospect with flaming red hair and legendary bat speed has already made noise around baseball, despite having never played in the majors. Despite his talent, he doesn’t seem to be a perfect fit in New York. His long, attention-grabbing hair is very un-Yankee-like, and he has a somewhat boastful personality that can get him in trouble (like when he allegedly asked for Mickey Mantle’s number). However, the attention surrounding his name is appealing to many franchises around MLB. A team like the White Sox, who are drowning under the massive Cubs’ fan base, would likely embrace a strong personality in Frazier, and have an elite starter in Jose Quintana to bid for him. If the Yankees throw in another couple of lower-level prospects (such as infielder, Jorge Mateo, who is useless after the acquisition of infielder, Gleyber Torres), Quintana could be a realistic deal with Frazier as the highlight on the New York end.
If Frazier is dealt, that still leaves five great outfielders available to patrol the Bronx outfield. In addition to Ellsbury, veteran Brett Gardner, breakout star Aaron Hicks, and superstar rookie Aaron Judge make up the current outfield. Additionally, Dustin Fowler sits in Triple-A as a supposedly major league-ready prospect, and his quiet demeanor similar to Judge and Gary Sanchez make him look like a perfect fit on the Yankees. But what comes of the others?
Although Joe Girardi has said the veterans won’t lose their starting jobs, it may be time to sit Ellsbury more often than not. Considering his age and proneness to injury, Ellsbury seems to be more productive when playing after rest, and although he is one of the team’s highest-paid players, the Yankees may just have to bite the bullet and do what’s best for the team. Aaron Judge is a lock in right field, and Hicks looks like he could be a great option in centerfield if he keeps up this year’s numbers. That leaves Brett Gardner.
Gardner has been one of the most productive Yankees this season, and is considered the heart and soul of the team. However, Gardner also has a long and consistent history of collapsing in the second half of the season. He plays a tough style of baseball, and his small frame usually can not sustain such a beating throughout the season. Signed through 2018 and putting up near All-Star numbers, Gardner is also an attractive piece of trade bait, who could possibly be added to a Frazier deal in order to hold on to younger prospects. Gardner is by no means a central part of the future of the team at 33 years old. Fowler is hitting .331 in Triple-A, and is the true future of the Yankees. Room must be made for him to thrive, with a year or so to adjust to New York before the team becomes a potential top contender at the end of the decade. If the Yankees keep Gardner, there’s almost no chance he will still be around after his deal expires; so why keep him when there’s a young kid in the minors who’s worthy of an outfield spot?
Having too much of a good thing is the best kind of problem to have, but there are crucial moves to be made by the trade deadline that could decide the future of the New York Yankees. If they make the tough moves in trading Gardner, lessening Ellsbury’s playing time, and dealing Frazier, they can fill essential needs and give young players opportunities to grow. If they keep one foot in the past, it could disrupt the chemistry and development of the team, but if they stay focused on the future, the road ahead will remain bright.
By Jack Caldwell ’18
Baseball season has been very entertaining this year for Yankees fans, with Aaron Judge continuing to hit home runs as the Bronx Bombers keep on winning. Along with this, a topic of conversation has been Andy Pettitte’s return to the organization as a special instructor. When talking about Pettitte’s return, C.C. Sabathia commented, “It’s a lot of fun to bounce stuff off a Hall of Famer.” Pettitte’s name will appear on the Hall of Fame ballot in December of 2018, but is he worthy of being inducted?
While it’s very easy to cancel Pettitte out of the discussion due to his admitted use of PEDs, that argument is growing outdated. With the recent inductions of steroid-linked players such as Ivan Rodriguez and Mike Piazza, it seems that HOF voters are becoming more lenient on the controversial issue. Infamous steroid-users such as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens have also seen their vote totals go up each year, making their eventual inductions almost inevitable. With the steroid argument out of the way, let’s take a look at Pettitte’s actual career.
Pettitte’s postseason numbers have been deemed untouchable by many. Although this has much to do with the success of the Yankee and Astro teams he pitched for, it’s undeniable that he was one of the best playoff performers of his generation. He leads baseball all-time in the playoffs in wins (19), innings pitched (276.2), and many memorable wins on his resume. Who could forget his shutout win against John Smoltz in Game 5 of the 1996 World Series? Or, at the age of 37, starting (and getting the win) on three days rest in the championship-clinching Game 6 of the 2009 World Series? Not only was Pettitte a clutch performer, but he was also durable.
At the age of 38, Pettitte continued to pitch at a high level and was voted into his third (and final) All-Star Game. After a year away from baseball in 2011, Pettitte returned to the Yankees and proved to have plenty left in the tank, posting ERAs of 2.87 and 3.74 with 16 total wins in his final two seasons as well as two solid starts in New York’s 2012 postseason run. The only thing holding Pettitte back at this point? He rarely matched his postseason greatness in the regular season.
To become a Hall of Famer, many argue that a player must be considered one of the best at his position for about a decade. Taking a look at his career from the age of 24 to 34, he finished in the top three voting for the Cy Young Award only once (1996, second). In that span, he pitched more than 200 innings eight times, garnered more than 20 wins once (2003) and had an ERA that averaged 3.8. Those numbers are very good, just not Hall of Fame worthy.
His postseason numbers are certainly admirable, but he never was as great in the regular season as he was in the playoffs. Pettitte also had many playoff opportunities because of the great teams he played for. Since the majority of Hall of Famers haven’t played nearly as many playoff games as Pettitte, regular season numbers have to be the primary focus when evaluating someone’s chance of being inducted.
Reflecting on Andy Pettitte’s career, he is certainly a legend to many Yankee fans. His postseason heroics, intimidating stare and humble attitude will be ingrained in the minds of every New Yorker who watched him pitch. However, it’s unfair to induct a player mostly based on their playoff numbers. A plaque in Monument Park? Obvious. Number retired? Probably justified. Hall of Famer? Not quite.