Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Credit Where Its Due: Yankees Get Brandon Drury

Brian Cashman's job is to make the New York Yankees stronger.

Lately, of course, he has not been doing that. In the last 2 seasons, he has helped 3 different teams win Pennants, none of them the Yankees: The Chicago Cubs, by trading them Aroldis Chapman; the Cleveland Indians, by trading them Andrew Miller; and the Houston Astros, by trading away Carlos Beltran and refusing to step in and trade for Justin Verlander, whom they did then trade for, allowing the Astros to pick those two up and win the World Series last season.

Cashman let all of the Yankees players at both 2nd base and 3rd base who could play and hit at a major league level go. Emblematic of this was trading Starlin Castro, a 2nd baseman and an All-Star player, for Giancarlo Stanton, whom the Yankees did not need, as they're already up to their Pinstriped necks in outfielders who can hit.

As a result, the Yankees had a Borg lineup: They had major league hitters not at all 9 positions, but at Seven of Nine.

But if I'm going to rip Cashman when he doesn't do his job, then I have to give him credit when he does.

Today he made a trade that could solve either of the Yankees' position problems. Not both, obviously, but it could solve one, and the flexibility involved allows Cashman and new field manager Aaron Boone to take the time of Spring Training to find someone to fill the other position, and even to decide which other position the "other position" is.

It was a 3-way deal. The Arizona Diamondbacks got Taylor Widener, a pitcher who was still in A-ball for the Yankees at age 23, so he's not going to amount to anything; and Steven Souza from the Tampa Bay Rays, a right fielder with a lot of power when he makes contact, but he doesn't make much contact.

The Rays got Nick Solak, a 2nd baseman who, like Widener, was 23 and spent most of last season at Class A Tampa, although he did show some promise at Class AA Trenton, but is far from ready for the major leagues; Anthony Banda, a 24-year-old pitcher with 25 major league innings to his name, although he has shown an ability to both start and relieve; and 2 players to be named later from Arizona.

The Yankees got Brandon Drury from the D-backs. So, to get him, the Yankees essentially gave up 2 guys who haven't yet amounted to anything, and may never amounted to much.

Here's what the Yankees got: Brandon S. Drury (I can't find a record of what the S stands for) was born on August 21, 1992 in Grants Pass, Oregon, and also grew up there. He will turn 26 late in the 2018 season, so he should be just entering his prime.

"B-Dru" is listed as 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds. He bats and throws righthanded. He is apparently no relation to Chris Drury, who pitched his Trumbell, Connecticut team to the 1989 Little League World Series title, and then played in the NHL, winning a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche and closing his career as Captain of the Rangers.

He debuted in the major leagues on September 1, 2015, going 0-for-4 for the Diamondbacks against the Colorado Rockies. In the 2016 and '17 seasons, he wore Number 27, but the Yankees have given that to Giancarlo Stanton, so Drury has been assigned Number 29, the number worn on the Yankees with varying levels of distinction by Catfish Hunter, Jesse Barfield, Gerald Williams, Mike Stanton, Tony Clark, Xavier Nady, Rafael Soriano, Francisco Cervelli and Todd Frazier; but also with great incompetence by Dave Collins, Bob Shirley, Randy Velarde, Kei Igawa and Tyler Clippard.

In 2016, his 1st full season, he batted .282 with 16 home runs and 53 RBIs. In 2017, he dipped a bit, hitting .267 with 13 homers and 63 RBIs. He has played 136 major league games at 2nd base, 62 in left field, 41 at 3rd base, 32 in right field, 3 as a designated hitter (at Interleague games away to American League teams), and 1 each at 1st base and shortstop.

So it sounds like the old joke from the Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner routine, "The 2,000-Year-Old Man":

Mel: I was a ten-of-all-trades!
Carl: You mean a jack-of-all-trades?
Mel: I wasn't that good!

In other words, it sounds like Brandon Drury is an ideal reserve, a guy who can step in just about anywhere, and provide decent hitting until the guy who got hurt at that position comes back.

Some Yankee Fans are already saying he's just filling the space until Gleyber Torres is ready to play 2nd, or Miguel Andujar is ready to play 3rd. These fans are assuming that those 2 will ever be ready to play Major League Baseball. As we've seen with Otto Velez, Damaso Garcia, Hensley Meulens and Ruben Rivera, you should never assume.

So, we now have a 2nd baseman. Or a 3rd baseman. Now, we just have to find the other one.

We can use Spring Training to figure out which one Drury should be, and which one we will still need.

It is 36 days to Opening Day.

*

Wally Moon died earlier this month, at age 87. The native of Lake City, Arkansas, mainly an outfielder, was born Wallace Wade Moon, named for the legendary football coach at the University of Alabama and Duke University, winning 3 National Championship at the former and living long enough to see the latter name its stadium for him.

Wally Moon was the National League Rookie of the Year in 1954, with the St. Louis Cardinals. He made the All-Star Team in 1957. In 1959, he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and, despite being a lefthanded hitter, was able to "inside-out" his swing, go to the opposite field, and loft balls over the screen set up to make it harder to reach the 251-foot left-field distance forced by the dimensions of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, where the Dodgers chose to play from 1958 to 1961 until Dodger Stadium could open. At the dawn of the Space Age, these became known as Moon Shots.

That year, made the All-Star Team again, led the NL in triples with 21 (taking advantage of the vast right-center field at the Coliseum), finished 4th in the NL Most Valuable Player award voting, and helped them win the World Series, hitting a home run at Comiskey Park in the clinching Game 6 to beat the Chicago White Sox. In 1960, he won a Gold Glove. In 1961, he led the NL in on-base percentage with .434 -- although hardly anybody knew it at the time.

In 1962, an injury curtailed his career, but he was still a key reserve on the Dodger World Series winners of 1963 and 1965, after which he retired. Former Dodger general manager Emil "Buzzie" Bavasi, named the 1st GM of the San Diego Padres in 1969, made Moon their 1st hitting instructor. He later served as baseball coach and athletic director of a small college in Arkansas, and managed the San Antonio Missions, a Double-A team in the Dodgers' system.

*

Tito Francona also died earlier this month. A native of the Pittsburgh area, John Patsy Francona was, like Moon, a lefty-hitting outfielder and 1st baseman. He made his debut with the Baltimore Orioles in 1956, but is best remembered for his time with the Cleveland Indians, helping them reach 2nd place in 1959, their last Pennant race until 1994.

He remained in the major leagues until 1970, with the Milwaukee Brewers. He later served as director of parks and recreation for the Pittsburgh suburb of New Brighton, Pennsylvania. But he's best remembered as the father of Terry Francona, also nicknamed Tito, a former major league outfielder who managed the Boston Red Sox to win * the 2004 and 2007 World Series, and now manages the Indians, having led them to the 2016 Pennant.

*

Days until The Arsenal play again: 1, tomorrow, at 3:05 PM our time, a Europa League Round of 32 match, home to Östersunds Fotbollsklubb of Sweden. Last week, The Arsenal went up to their place, just barely south of the Arctic Circle (no joke), and beat them 3-0. With 3 away goals in their pockets, they can pretty much cruise past them.

Days until the New Jersey Devils next play a local rival: 3, this Saturday night, against the New York Islanders at the Prudential Center. They won't play the New York Rangers again until the last week of the regular season, on Tuesday, April 3, at the Prudential Center. They won't play the Philadelphia Flyers again during the regular season, although a Playoff matchup is possible.

Days until the New York Red Bulls play again: 6, next Tuesday night at 7:00, in the CONCACAF Champions League, against Club Deportivo Olimpia of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. This is the home leg of the Round of 16 match, but the away game will not be in their hometown of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, but instead in San José, Costa Rica. The Red Bulls open the 2018 Major League Soccer season at home against the Portland Timbers on March 10. Just over 4 weeks.

Days until the U.S. national soccer team plays again: 34, on Tuesday, March 27, at Sahlen's Stadium in the Raleigh suburb of Cary, North Carolina. Then, in June, there will be a trip to Europe, to play Ireland in Dublin and France in Lyon. These should have been warmups for the World Cup later that month. Alas...

Days until Opening Day of the 2018 Major League Baseball season: 36on Thursday night, March 29, as the Yankees open away to the Toronto Blue Jays. Exactly 7 weeks. The Yankees still don't have a 2nd baseman or a 3rd baseman who can both play those positions and hit major league pitching well, so the only way we Yankee Fans will see the postseason is if we've paid our cable bills.

Days until the Yankees' 2018 home opener: 40, on Monday afternoon, April 2, against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series begins: 48, on Tuesday, April 10, at Fenway Park.

Days until the Red Bulls next play a "derby": 73on Saturday afternoon, May 5, home to New York City FC. Their 1st game against the Philadelphia Union will be on Saturday night, May 26, at Red Bull Arena in Harrison. Their 1st game against the New England Revolution will be on Saturday night, June 2, at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro. Their 1st game against D.C. United, and their 1st game ever at the new Audi Field, will be on Wednesday night, July 25.

Days until the next World Cup kicks off in Russia: 113, on June 14. A little under 4 months. But the U.S. team won't be playing. At least now, Donald Trump doesn't have to choose, and can root for his favorite country, the host nation, Russia.

Days until the 2018 trading deadline, after which we won't have to fear Yankee general manager Brian Cashman trading any proven good players for "prospects": 161, on Tuesday, July 31. A little over 5 months.

Days until the next North London Derby (after this one): Unknown, but not until next season. The Premier League season opener will be on Saturday, August 11, but you never see a derby on the opening weekend. So, more than 172 days.

Days until September 2018 roster call-ups, when we can finally start to expect seeing most of these wonderful "prospects" that Yankee general manager Brian Cashman wanted: 193. A little over 6 months.

Days until Rutgers University plays football again: 193, on Saturday, September 1, home to Texas State University. 

Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: Unknown. The 2018 schedule hasn't been released yet. But the season opener is usually on the 1st Friday in September. that would be September 7, which is 199 days from now.

Days until the next Congressional election, when we can elect a Democratic Congress that can impeach and remove Donald Trump from the Presidency: 259on November 6. Under 8 months.

Days until the next Rutgers-Penn State game: 270, on Saturday, November 17, at High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, New Jersey.

Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving high school football game: 275, on Thursday, November 22. A little over 9 months.

Days until a Democratic Congress can convene, and the impeachment process can begin: 317on Thursday, January 3, 2019. A little over 10 months.

Days until the Baseball Hall of Fame vote is announced, electing Mariano Rivera: 337, on January 23, 2019. A little over 11 months.

Days until the next Women's World Cup kicks off: 472, on June 7, 2019, in France. Under a year and a half, 15 months. The U.S. team, as 3-time and defending Champions, has, as usual, a better chance than the men's team would have had in 2018 anyway.

Days until my 50th Birthday, at which point I can join AARP and get discounts for travel and game tickets: 667, on December 18, 2019. Under 2 years, or a little under 22 months.

Days until the Baseball Hall of Fame vote is announced, electing Derek Jeter: 702on January 22, 2020. A little under 2 years, or a little over 23 months.

Days until the next Summer Olympics begins in Tokyo, Japan: 887on July 24, 2020. Under 2 1/2 years, or a little over 29 months.

Days until the next Presidential election, when we can dump the Trump-Pence regime and elect a real Administration: 989on November 3, 2020. Under 3 years, or a little over 31 months.

Days until Liberation Day: 1,067at noon on January 20, 2021. Under 3 years, or a little under 35 months. Note that this is liberation from the Republican Party, not just from Donald Trump. Having Mike Pence as President wouldn't be better, just differently bad, mixing theocracy with plutocracy, rather than mixing kleptocracy with plutocracy.

Days until the next Winter Olympics (after the current one in Pyeongchang, Korea) begins in Beijing, China: 1,448, on February 4, 2022. Under 4 years, or a little over 47 months.

Days until the next World Cup for which the American team will be eligible is scheduled to kick off: 1,739, on November 21, 2022, in Qatar. Under 5 years, or about 57 months. The charges of corruption against Qatar may yet mean that they will lose the tournament, in which case it will be moved to a nation where it would not be too hot to play it in June and July.

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