Seventy-nine players filed for free agency yesterday

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Seventy-nine players filed for free agency yesterday. The two teams with the most filers: the Cardinals with seven and the Dodgers with six.

For the Cardinals: Rick Ankiel, Mark DeRosa, Troy Glaus, Khalil Greene, Matt Holliday, Jason LaRue and John Smoltz.  Off the top of my head in terms of “would I sign them-a-bilitiy”: yes, yes, no, no, yes, no and (regretfully) no.  In making that judgment I’m assuming that they’ll get roughly what they’re really worth as opposed to finding someone to overpay them. Ankiel could be useful if he doesn’t demand too much dough. DeRosa isn’t as valuable as everyone likes to think he is, but he’s solid and versatile.  Holliday is a no-brainer at Matt Holliday dollars but not worth the Mark Teixeira bucks his agent is allegedly seeking. 

The Dodgers have the most potential free agents at 16. Six filed yesterday: Randy Wolf, Jon Garland, Eric Milton, Orlando Hudson, Ronnie Belliard and Doug Mientkiewicz. Same exercise: yes, yes, no, yes, maybe, and no. None of the yeses seem like they”ll break the bank, and all of them could prove useful to any number of teams.  Wolf may make some real money, but he’s a lefty, and lefties always seem to make their money.

Upside to all of this: having fewer kids around will make custody and child support negotiations easier for the McCourts.

The Dodgers have ten other potential free agents, nine of whom are Brad Ausmus, Juan Castro, Mark Loretta, Guillermo Mota, Will Ohman, Vicente Padilla, Jason Schmidt, Jim Thome, and Jeff Weaver.  Outside of Padilla, I can’t feature them really making an effort to keep any of those guys. Maybe Weaver. Things are always more fun when a Weaver is involved.  

And then there’s Manny. His decision on his option is due by November 10th. The odds of him not exercising seem extraordinarily long to the point of absurdity. Boras will probably wait until the last minute though so he can tell everyone he had heard informal expressions of interest from a half dozen teams.

Every team had players filing for free agency except the Yankees and the Phillies, who have been otherwise occupied lately, and the Reds and Pirates who, last I checked, don’t have any players above the age of eight, let alone any high profile free agents.

The 2017 Yankees are, somehow, plucky underdogs

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There’s a lot that has happened in the past year that I never, ever would’ve thought would or even could happen in America. Many of them are serious, some are not, some make me kinda happy and some make me terribly sad. I’m sure a lot of people have felt that way in this oddest of years.

There’s one thing in baseball, however, that still has me searching my feelings in a desperate effort to know what to feel: The New York Yankees are the postseason’s plucky underdogs.

This is not about them being lovable or likable — we touched on that last week — it’s more about the role they play in the grand postseason drama. A postseason they weren’t even supposed to be in.

None of the three writers of this website thought the Yankees would win the AL East or a Wild Card. ESPN had 35 “experts” make predictions back in March, and only one of them — Steve Wulf — thought the Yankees would make the postseason (he thought they’d win the division). I’m sure if you go over the plethora of professional prognosticator’s predictions a few would have the Yankees squeaking in to the postseason on the Wild Card, but that was nothing approaching a consensus view. Their 2017 regular season was a surprise to almost everyone, with the expectation of a solid, if unspectacular rebuilding year being greatly exceeded. To use a sports cliche, nobody believed in them.

Then came the playoffs. Most people figured the Yankees would beat the Twins in the Wild Card game and they did, but most figured they’d be cannon fodder for the Indians. And yep, they fell down early, losing the first two games of the series and shooting themselves in the foot in spectacular fashion in the process. Yet they came back, beating arguably the best team in baseball and certainly the best team in the American League in three straight games despite the fact that . . . nobody believed in them.

Now we’re in the ALCS. The Astros — the other choice for best team in the American League if you didn’t think the Indians were — jumped out to a 2-0 lead, quieting the Yankees’ powerful bats. While a lot of teams have come back from 0-2 holes in seven game series, the feel of this thing as late as Monday morning was that, even if the Yankees take a game at home, Houston was going to cruise into the World Series. Once again . . . nobody believed in them.

Yet, here we are on this late Wednesday morning, with the Yankees having tied things up 2-2. As I wrote this morning, you still have to like the Astros’ chances given that their aces, Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander, are set to go in Games 5 and 6. I’m sure a lot of people feel still like the Astros’ chances for that reason. So that leads us to this . . .

It’s one thing for no one to have, objectively, believed in the Yankees chances. It’s another thing, though, for the New York Yankees — the 27-time World Champions, the 40-time American League pennant winners, the richest team in the game, the house-at-the-casino, U.S. Steel and the Evil Empire all wrapped into one — to officially play the “nobody believed in us” card on their own account. That’s the stuff of underdogs. Of Davids facing Goliaths. Of The Little Guy, demanding respect that no one ever considered affording them. If you’re not one of those underdogs and you’re playing that card, you’re almost always doing it out of some weird self-motivational technique and no one else will ever take you seriously. And now you’re telling me the NEW YORK FRIGGIN’ YANKEES are playing that card?

Thing is: they’re right. They’ve totally earned the right to play it because, really, no one believed in them. Even tied 2-2, I presume most people still don’t, actually.

I don’t know how to process this. Nothing in my 40 years of baseball fandom has prepared me for the Yankees to be the David to someone else’s Goliath and to claim righteous entitlement to the whole “nobody believed in us” thing.

Which, as I said at the beginning, is nothing new in the year 2017. I just never thought it’d happen in baseball.