Yankees Outfield Dilemma

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.

How Steve Nash influenced the NBA

By Ben Stein ’18

Though often overlooked, Steve Nash completely changed the way we view the NBA. Besides the obvious fact that he won the MVP award twice, in 2005 and 2006, his greatest influence on the game was that he made it a pass first league for point guards.

While his passing ability is unmatched, interestingly enough in all of his seasons as an NBA player he never averaged more than 19 points per game. In 2004-05 he had almost as many assists as points, scoring only 15.5 ppg, but averaging 11.5 apg. He made other players look better; when he had 11 apg it was as if he was on the other end of 22 to 33 points. The second best assister in the same 04-05 season was Allen Iverson with 10 apg, and then it dropped off massively with Jason Kidd being third at 7.3 apg.

I understand that there are still star players who are not pass first players. Damian Lillard and Gordon Hayward, for example, do not pass all that much, but there are now also many stars who do pass. The leading assist leader in the 2016-17 season was James Harden, besides scoring roughly 30 ppg he had 11.2 assists. That is not that different from Steve Nash who averaged 11.5. Also, there were many players this year that closely followed, and recently there has been an influx of great assisters.

The second and third best assisters were point guards, like Harden, had similar numbers. John Wall had 10.7 assists and Russell Westbrook had 10.4. Fourth and fifth best were Chris Paul and Ricky Rubio with 9.2 apg and 9.1 apg, respectively.

The assist leaders in the league before Nash became MVP did not average nearly as many assists. Jason Kidd was the assist leader for five seasons; in the 1998-1999 season he averaged 10.78 assists, 1999-2000 he averaged 10.12 and 2000-2001 he averaged 9.78 assists. During the 2001-2002 season Andre Miller was the league assist leader with 10.89, and Kidd led in 2002-2003 with 8.89 and 2003-2004 with 9.22. However, in the years after Nash, all assist leaders had more than 10 assists, and eight out of the last 10 have had more than 11 assists.

I do acknowledge that John Stockton owned the league with assists between the years of 1987-1996, however the players who followed him did not all assist in the double digits. All of the players who have followed Nash have.
Teams are scoring more, but it is not only the era of offensive domination…. it also due to the fact that we have some of the greatest passers playing now, partly because of Steve Nash.

Celtics should Embrace the Youth Movement and keep the first pick

By Jackson Daignault ’18

Coming off a Game Six loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the number one seeded Boston Celtics were left facing an internal question, “Now what?”

This season was always considered a rebuilding year, featuring a team that was “one player away.”

However, the Celtics played well beyond expectations, clinching the number one seed led by an All-NBA second team point guard in Isaiah Thomas. The franchise was also able to make its best free agency signing in its history with the acquisition of former All-Star Al Horford, a key piece of their offense throughout the season. These gritty Celtics were always considered underdogs, but after making a push to the Eastern Conference Finals, there seemed to be a glimmer of hope. Then Lebron James happened.

The past month was a whirlwind of emotions for Celtics fans. First, they won the draft lottery and were granted the number one pick. A few days later, the Celtics won Game Three off of an Avery Bradley game winner, inspiring hope for the Celtics to compete against the contenders. A week later, the Celtics’ last glimpse of hope was destroyed as they were eliminated by Lebron James.

What else could they have done? They had played beyond expectations, stealing a game in Cleveland, but still felt short to the star powered Cavaliers.

Now, the Celtics are faced with a crossroad: attempt to stockpile talent and contend with the Cavaliers of the world, or attempt to build through the draft?

The Celtics’ best option would be to embrace the youth movement and draft Markelle Fultz, the 19-year-old standout guard from Washington.

Fultz was a bonafide stud on a struggling University of Washington team, where he averaged 23.2 points and 5.9 assists per game. Fultz is the consensus number one pick, and has superstar upside. Fultz fits the bill for a long and productive NBA career.

Fultz and Thomas have both been vocal about their desire and ability to play together, so there is no argument in terms of fit. Pairing the two of them will allow the Celtics to dominate on the offensive side of the ball with two scorers, as well as develop their young talent. While Thomas may be a liability on defense, the 6’4 195 pound two-guard should be able to make up for some of Thomas’ issues on the defensive side of the ball, along with help from All-NBA defender Avery Bradley.

While trading for a proven star like Chicago Bulls guard, Jimmy Butler, or Indiana Pacers forward, Paul George, makes the team better in the immediate future, Lebron James is not getting any younger, and any path to the finals is blocked by him.

Trading for a player of either of their calibers would be a hefty price, one that would probably include the 2017 number one pick, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and/or one of their draft and stash players. Giving up those three incredibly valuable assets for a single player harms the development and depth of the team.

Jaylen Brown, the number three pick in the draft, has superstar potential and the Celtics would have a difficult time parting with him. Showcased by plays like this, Brown had a strong rookie season and will look to grow as he works into his second year. Brown is only 20 years old, and has the frame to be dominant in the NBA, coming in at 6’7, 225 pounds. Coming out of college, Brown’s jump shot was often criticized. However, Brown worked on his jump shot before and during the season, and he was a strong finisher for the Celtics in limited playing time. When Avery Bradley went down with an injury for a few weeks, Brown stepped into a starting role and played well. While Brown was inconsistent as a 20-year-old rookie, more playing time will benefit him and his development as a player. As a result of Brown’s great size, he often was given difficult assignments, such as Lebron James in the playoffs. While Brown by no means locked down James, he was able to get in his face and cause him some discomfort. If Brown is able to utilize his athletic ability to become a lockdown defender, he will have a great NBA career. The Celtics organization has high hopes for Brown, and he figures to be an untouchable franchise cornerstone.

On the other hand, Marcus Smart is in a world of his own. When Smart was drafted with the sixth pick of the 2014 draft, Celtics fans were left scratching their heads.

Another guard? That can’t shoot? What about Rajon Rondo?

But boy those critics have silenced. The positive impact Smart has on games cannot be measured in statistics. Smart puts his body on the line every time he steps on the floor, and plays with a ton of heart, a characteristic the city of Boston adores. While Smart is an inconsistent shooter (35.8%), he has shown what he is capable of, single handedly torching the Cavaliers in Game Three. The 29.1% three point shooter, Smart poured in seven three pointers, and made hustle play after hustle play to propel the Celtics to victory. Smart stepped up big in the absence of Isaiah Thomas while giving a glimpse of the future for the Celtics. Time after time, Smart has been the X factor for the Celtics, making winning plays by showing heart and throwing his body around the court. Smart could not have landed in a better place than Boston, a city that embraces his blue collar, bulldog mentality.

The Celtics also have two draft and stash prospects from last year: Ante Zizic and Guerschon Yabusele. Zizic, the 20 year-old, 6’11 250 pound center has gained lots of national attention playing for multiple teams in Europe. According to a report from Sportingnews.com, an anonymous general manager believes that if the Celtics had not drafted Zizic with the 23rd pick in the 2016 NBA draft, he would have been selected in the top 10 of this year’s draft. The Celtics have struggled rebounding the ball this season, and Zizic figures to be the Celtics’ replacement for Amir Johnson on the glass. Developing a rebounder of Zizic’s talent will have a huge impact on the future of the franchise.

The other prospect, Yabusele, otherwise known as “the Dancing Bear”, played in China for a bit before arriving in America to play for the Celtics D-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws. The 16th pick in the 2016 draft, Yabusele averaged 12.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game in Maine. Yabusele has a large frame, but also has a good jump shot. Yabusele has gathered Draymond Green comparisons, and if the French product can carry out that comparison, the Celtics will be thrilled. Yabusele figures to fit in the middle of the rotation, where he will continue to grow and develop.

The front office seems to be very high on both of these young exciting prospects, and expect both to be suited up at TD Garden next year.

Simply put, it would not make sense for the Celtics to give up any of these four assets for one of those two players. While adding Butler or George would allow them to better compete with the Cavaliers, the road to the finals has never been more difficult, with Lebron James showing no sign of slowing down. It does not make sense to mortgage the future of the franchise for a handful of years of contention. Boston is no stranger to winning, and will expect to maintain the winning ways of their 2008 Celtics team.

By keeping and developing their young talent/picks, the Celtics will be able to keep their championship window open for years after Lebron James finally hangs up the sneakers. A core of Isaiah Thomas, Markelle Fultz, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Ante Zizic and Guerschon Yabusele, as well as former All-Star, Al Horford, and All-NBA defender, Avery Bradley, will be strong for not only now, but also the far future.

Embrace the youth movement, Danny Ainge. Let’s get Banner 18.