John Harper

 (Treated Image by SNY)
(Treated Image by SNY)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The Winter Meetings will never be what they once were, when GMs exchanged trade proposals on cocktail napkins at the bar and even occasionally agreed to a late-night deal without a spreadsheet in sight. 

That said, however, baseball's annual gathering of executives and media this week in San Diego at least came to life again for the first time in a few years, delivering the action everyone wanted to see in the form of mega-million dollar free-agent signings. 

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 (Treated Image by SNY)
(Treated Image by SNY)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The Winter Meetings will never be what they once were, when GMs exchanged trade proposals on cocktail napkins at the bar and even occasionally agreed to a late-night deal without a spreadsheet in sight. 

That said, however, baseball's annual gathering of executives and media this week in San Diego at least came to life again for the first time in a few years, delivering the action everyone wanted to see in the form of mega-million dollar free-agent signings. 

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John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Countering launch-angle hitting with high fastballs has become all but mandatory for pitchers in the big leagues these days, as dictated by analytics departments and pitching coaches. But it doesn't work for everyone. 

It most certainly didn't work for Rick Porcello in 2019 when he posted a 5.52 ERA, by far the highest in his career, at least partly because he threw the most four-seam fastballs of any season in his career. 

Can he get back to being more of the sinkerballer who has been a solid-to-above-average starter for much of his 11-year career? 

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John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Is there a chance the Mets could pull off a trade with the Astros for shortstop Carlos Correa?

They'd have to get awfully creative, put it that way.

At the Winter Meetings in San Diego, SNY's Andy Martino reported Wednesday that the teams have had "dialogue" about such a possibility, which comes on the heels of The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reporting Tuesday that the Astros have entertained the possibility of trading Correa as a way of dealing with their current -- and future -- payroll crunch.

Tags: Amed Rosario, John Harper
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Masahiro Tanaka and Noah Syndergaard
Masahiro Tanaka and Noah Syndergaard

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The long-awaited scientific findings on the 2019 baseball were released on Wednesday, and the conclusions likely aren't going to satisfy pitchers throughout the majors who were convinced MLB intentionally juiced the ball to fly farther and produce more home runs.

Yet at least there is reason to believe Noah Syndergaard wasn't crazy when he kept complaining that he couldn't throw his slider as effectively in the past -- due to a decrease in the height of the seams on some of the balls that apparently contributed to the record-breaking number of home runs.

And maybe there is now even more reason to believe the Mets should gamble on signing free-agent reliever Blake Treinen, whose fall from dominance with the A's last season was due largely to the ineffectiveness of his sinker -- thought to be at least partly related to lower seams on the ball.

Tags: Edwin Diaz, Masahiro Tanaka, Noah Syndergaard, John Harper
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Masahiro Tanaka and Noah Syndergaard
Masahiro Tanaka and Noah Syndergaard

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The long-awaited scientific findings on the 2019 baseball were released on Wednesday, and the conclusions likely aren't going to satisfy pitchers throughout the majors who were convinced MLB intentionally juiced the ball to fly farther and produce more home runs.

Yet at least there is reason to believe Noah Syndergaard wasn't crazy when he kept complaining that he couldn't throw his slider as effectively in the past -- due to a decrease in the height of the seams on some of the balls that apparently contributed to the record-breaking number of home runs.

And maybe there is now even more reason to believe the Mets should gamble on signing free-agent reliever Blake Treinen, whose fall from dominance with the A's last season was due largely to the ineffectiveness of his sinker -- thought to be at least partly related to lower seams on the ball.

Tags: Edwin Diaz, Masahiro Tanaka, Noah Syndergaard, John Harper
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Gerrit Cole (Treated Image by SNY)
Gerrit Cole (Treated Image by SNY)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

In the end, the Yankees wanted to leave no doubt. Though they've operated with an unusual level of fiscal restraint in recent years, their addition of Gerrit Cole late Tuesday night was a reminder that when they want a free agent, nobody else really stands a chance.

The Angels and Dodgers both wanted Cole badly as well, yet the Yankees blew them away with their financial might, locking up the superstar pitcher to a nine-year, $324 million contract, which was miles ahead of the other offers. 

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Dom Smith
Dom Smith

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Unless the Mets are pulling a heck of a misdirection play, all indications are they don't plan to spend significantly for the pitching help that they figure to need if they're serious about winning the NL East next season.

So how do they get creative, to use the strategy that Brodie Van Wagenen has referenced in speaking of this offseason?

Their most obvious trade chip is Dom Smith, mostly because he's blocked at first base by Pete Alonso and would be a liability in left field. Smith has value after proving last season that he can do damage with the bat, but the Mets almost certainly see J.D. Davis as a better fit, since he can play third base and left field. 

Tags: Dominic Smith, Jeurys Familia, John Harper
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Oct 2, 2019; New York, NY, USA; New York Yankees general manger Brian Cashman gestures while on the phone during a workout day before game 1 of the ALDS at Yankees Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Oct 2, 2019; New York, NY, USA; New York Yankees general manger Brian Cashman gestures while on the phone during a workout day before game 1 of the ALDS at Yankees Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The Winter Meetings have been a snooze-fest in recent years, as teams have become more cautious about long-term free-agent signings and less inclined to give up prospects in trades, producing offseason stalemates that last into February.

But there's hope it might be different this time, as a combination of factors offers the possibility for significant action in San Diego the next few days. 

Most notably, large-market teams such as the Yankees, Dodgers, and Angels are big-game hunters this offseason, which hasn't been the case in recent years. 

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Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen
Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The Winter Meetings have been a snooze-fest in recent years, as teams have become more cautious about long-term free-agent signings and less inclined to give up prospects in trades, producing offseason stalemates that last into February.

But there's hope it might be different this time, as a combination of factors offers the possibility for significant action in San Diego the next few days. 

Most notably, large-market teams such as the Yankees, Dodgers, and Angels are big-game hunters this offseason, which hasn't been the case in recent years. 

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Seth Lugo
Seth Lugo

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The Phillies are buying into the same obvious potential in Zack Wheeler that convinced me last winter he'd turned a corner in 2018 and blossomed into an elite starter, so I can understand why they gave him $118 million to upgrade their starting rotation. 

But here's the thing: Wheeler didn't turn that corner, as it turned out, and while brilliant at times in 2019, he was plagued by inconsistent command and mistake-pitch home runs that negated his dominant stuff too often, especially early as he pitched to a 4.96 ERA over the first 15 starts of the season.

Tags: Edwin Diaz, Seth Lugo, Zack Wheeler, John Harper
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May 27, 2019; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Blake Treinen (39) throws a pitch during the ninth inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports (Darren Yamashita)
May 27, 2019; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Blake Treinen (39) throws a pitch during the ninth inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports (Darren Yamashita)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The Mets are already banking on a big bounce-back season from Edwin Diaz, arguably baseball's best closer in 2018. Why not double down on that approach for 2020, now that Blake Treinen is a free agent?

That way they only need to go 1-for-2 on the reliever volatility theory to fix their bullpen in spectacular fashion.

Treinen, every bit as dominant for the A's in 2018 as Diaz was for the Mariners, and nearly as dreadful in 2019, was set free on Monday night when Oakland chose to non-tender him a contract rather than pay him some $8 million next season via arbitration.

Tags: Edwin Diaz, Robinson Cano, John Harper
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Asdrubal Cabrera, Cameron Maybin and Howie Kendrick. (Treated Image by SNY)
Asdrubal Cabrera, Cameron Maybin and Howie Kendrick. (Treated Image by SNY)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

In honor of Black Friday, where the lure of bargains convinces otherwise rational people to navigate the madness of overcrowded shopping, here's a list of free agents on which you won't find Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, or Anthony Rendon.
 
No, this isn't the big-ticket aisle but more of a discount store for players who could provide the best bang for the buck. 

In some cases that means gambling on bounce-back seasons for players who were dealing with injuries, in others it means settling for an under-the-radar level of performance and certainty.

Tags: Asdrubal Cabrera, Cameron Maybin, Dellin Betances, Didi Gregorius, John Harper
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Asdrubal Cabrera, Cameron Maybin and Howie Kendrick. (Treated Image by SNY)
Asdrubal Cabrera, Cameron Maybin and Howie Kendrick. (Treated Image by SNY)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

In honor of Black Friday, where the lure of bargains convinces otherwise rational people to navigate the madness of overcrowded shopping, here's a list of free agents on which you won't find Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, or Anthony Rendon.
 
No, this isn't the big-ticket aisle but more of a discount store for players who could provide the best bang for the buck. 

In some cases that means gambling on bounce-back seasons for players who were dealing with injuries, in others it means settling for an under-the-radar level of performance and certainty.

Tags: Asdrubal Cabrera, Cameron Maybin, Dellin Betances, Didi Gregorius, John Harper
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Starling Marte (Treated Image by SNY)
Starling Marte (Treated Image by SNY)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Most everyone agrees that Starling Marte would be a nice get for the Mets, giving them the everyday center fielder they've been looking for since, well, since their new manager, Carlos Beltran, was playing the position a decade ago.

But what would it take for them to acquire him in a trade with the Pirates?

The consensus, based on conversations I had with scouts, executives, and minor-league evaluators on Monday, is that Pittsburgh's new GM, Ben Cherington, probably would have to like the idea of taking a major leaguer such as J.D. Davis, Brandon Nimmo, or Dom Smith in return for Marte. 

Tags: Amed Rosario, Brandon Nimmo, Carlos Beltran, Dominic Smith, JD Davis, John Harper
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 (Treated Image by SNY)
(Treated Image by SNY)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The Nationals may have won the World Series but the Braves were the best team in the NL East over 162 games last season, totaling 97 wins, and they could be better in 2020 considering: 

They have the best core of age 25-and-under players in the division, as well as a Top Five farm system, and they've moved quickly this off-season to load up in the bullpen, signing Will Smith, the top reliever on the free agent market, and re-signing Chris Martin.  

All of which sets an awfully high bar for the Mets next season if they're going to deliver on the win-now expectations that have defined Brodie Van Wagenen's actions as GM.

Tags: Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Wilson Ramos, Zack Wheeler, John Harper
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John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

It seemed to make for an awkward clubhouse dynamic at the time, but maybe Noah Syndergaard's preference for a catcher other than Wilson Ramos will prove beneficial to the Mets in 2020.

As it is, there is belief around the team that Ramos was motivated to work harder at his defense in the second half of last season -- after a horrendous first half -- in part by his awareness that neither Syndergaard nor Jacob deGrom wanted to pitch to him. 

At an appearance in New York on Thursday, Ramos essentially admitted as much, telling reporters, "I heard a lot of bad things about me behind the plate but I'm going to focus on getting better."

Tags: Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Wilson Ramos, John Harper
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Yankees' Miguel Andujar (Treated Image by SNY)
Yankees' Miguel Andujar (Treated Image by SNY)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Brian Cashman said last week he has received numerous inquiries from teams about trading Miguel Andujar, and while Gio Urshela's emergence makes that idea tempting for the Yankees, the pros and cons of it lean toward such extremes that finding the right deal could be difficult.

Consider, for example, these contrasting points of view from two scouts I talked to this weekend:

"Andujar's ceiling as a hitter is so high that I'm not sure the Yankees could get anywhere near the value they should for him," one scout said. "He's got an innate ability to make contact, square the ball up and hit it hard, which everybody saw in his rookie year, and he'll only get better as he continues to see major-league pitching."

Tags: Aaron Hicks, Aroldis Chapman, Brett Gardner, Didi Gregorius, Gio Urshela, Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, Zack Wheeler, John Harper
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Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen
Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The Mets have given every indication that improving the bullpen is going to be the priority for them this offseason, though to what extent is quite fuzzy as Brodie Van Wagenen has been making the case that he's counting on Jeurys Familia and Edwin Diaz to have bounce-back seasons.

And, oh by the way, Will Smith -- arguably the best reliever on the market -- signed with the Braves on Thursday as the NL East champs took a big step to strengthen what was an area of weakness for them in 2019.

Smith got $39 million over three years, and the Mets apparently weren't willing to spend that much, at least in part because they're already paying Familia $10 million a year for two more years.

Tags: Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Seth Lugo, Zack Wheeler, John Harper
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John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

So Theo Epstein is open for business, seemingly determined to shake up a roster that has fallen short of expectations since the Cubs' curse-busting championship in 2016.

He told reporters at the GM Meeting in Arizona this week that "change is not always easy but it's necessary," and declared "there are no untouchables" when it comes to the possibility of a trade this offseason.

Yes, with his once-youthful core of position players now speeding toward free agency, and a payroll that went over the luxury-tax threshold this season, Epstein apparently is ready to consider any and all deals that could save the Cubs some money while still giving them a shot in 2020 at another championship.

Tags: Aaron Hicks, Brandon Nimmo, Brett Gardner, Didi Gregorius, Gary Sanchez, Giancarlo Stanton, Jeff McNeil, Miguel Andujar, Noah Syndergaard, Pete Alonso, Zack Wheeler, John Harper
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John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

So Theo Epstein is open for business, seemingly determined to shake up a roster that has fallen short of expectations since the Cubs' curse-busting championship in 2016.

He told reporters at the GM Meetings in Arizona this week that "change is not always easy but it's necessary," and declared "there are no untouchables" when it comes to the possibility of a trade this offseason.

Yes, with his once-youthful core of position players now speeding toward free agency, and a payroll that went over the luxury-tax threshold this season, Epstein apparently is ready to consider any and all deals that could save the Cubs some money while still giving them a shot in 2020 at another championship.

Tags: Aaron Hicks, Brandon Nimmo, Brett Gardner, Didi Gregorius, Gary Sanchez, Giancarlo Stanton, Jeff McNeil, Miguel Andujar, Noah Syndergaard, Pete Alonso, Zack Wheeler, John Harper
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Mets' Jacob deGrom (Treated Image by SNY)
Mets' Jacob deGrom (Treated Image by SNY)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

On July 25, Jacob deGrom pitched seven shutout innings against the Padres to get his ERA under 3.00 for the first time since April, and afterward I cornered him briefly in the clubhouse to see if I could get him to confess that he'd been tipping pitches early in the season. 

We went back and forth a bit, as he admitted he'd been made aware of something he was doing in his delivery that may have explained giving up 14 runs over three starts, yet insisted he was to blame for leaving too many pitches in the middle of the plate during that brief stretch. 

Finally, I said to him, "Well, if it wasn't for those three starts, you'd have a good shot at another Cy Young Award."

Tags: Jacob deGrom, John Harper
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Pete Alonso
Pete Alonso

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

If there was a moment that perfectly summed up Pete Alonso's momentous season, one that was capped off Monday with the announcement of his National League Rookie of the Year Award, I would argue that it wasn't one of his record-breaking 53 home runs, eye-popping as some of them were. 

Instead I'd say it was his bases-loaded walk, of all things, in the bottom of the ninth inning on Sept. 6 that forced home the game-winning run against the Phillies -- largely because it left him doing TV interviews on SNY and then MLB Network shirtless, after his jersey was ripped off him by teammates in celebration.

Tags: Pete Alonso, John Harper
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Terry Collins/Pete Mackanin/John Gibbons
Terry Collins/Pete Mackanin/John Gibbons

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The Mets have a new manager at least partly because Mickey Callaway repeatedly made strategic mistakes during games over two seasons, but also because there hasn't been a bench coach savvy enough to avoid at least some of the train wrecks. 

Which brings us to the Mets' next piece of business: find the right guy to ride shotgun for Carlos Beltran and make his transition to managing as smooth as possible.

In short, find the right bench coach.

Tags: Carlos Beltran, John Harper
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Gerrit Cole/Clint Frazier
Gerrit Cole/Clint Frazier

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

In trying to predict what the Yankees might do this off-season, only one question really matters for a team that is loaded in so many areas:

Are they ready to open the vault for the best pitcher in baseball at the moment? 

I believe they are, even if it's partly as a response to public pressure to win another championship. Other than that, it looms as a fairly quiet winter for a team coming off back-to-back 100-win seasons. 

Tags: Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, Brett Gardner, Cameron Maybin, CC Sabathia, Clint Frazier, DJ LeMahieu, Giancarlo Stanton, Gio Urshela, Gleyber Torres, Luke Voit, John Harper
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Carlos Beltran of the New York Mets on May 7, 2011 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Carlos Beltran of the New York Mets on May 7, 2011 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The potential for Carlos Beltran to excel at his new job as manager of the Mets is rooted mostly in his acclaimed baseball acumen and his ability to connect with players as a deep thinker who works hard at developing personal relationships.

In recent years, in fact, an image of Beltran as a baseball savant has emerged around the game, especially in the influence he had on the Houston Astros' 2017 championship team, when he was credited for picking up the way Yu Darvish was tipping pitches in that postseason.

Tags: Carlos Beltran, John Harper
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John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Ok, let's be honest, any bold predictions for the Mets this offseason come with a qualifier, considering they are locked in already at so many positions and likely won't make the kind of big-splash moves that would raise the payroll significantly.

So while I'd love to predict that the Mets will sign free agents Anthony Rendon and Aroldis Chapman, in addition to re-signing Zack Wheeler, I don't think they'll actually make any of those moves.

Furthermore, Brodie Van Wagenen has gone public saying he won't trade either Noah Syndergaard or Edwin Diaz, and while someone could make an offer that would change his mind, I think he'll stick to that declaration. Also, with the farm system depleted at the upper levels, the Mets don't have top prospects who are close to the majors to trade, either.

Tags: Dominic Smith, Edwin Diaz, Noah Syndergaard, Wilson Ramos, John Harper
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Umpire makes out call
Umpire makes out call

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

If the so-called robot umpires are the future for baseball, and certainly the questionable home plate umpiring in the World Series has produced a new outcry toward that end, then Frank Viola figures he'll be remembered for something more than winning a World Series MVP and an American League Cy Young Award. 

"I was the first guy thrown out of a robotic-umpire game," Viola says with a laugh over the phone. "I'm in the history books."

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Umpire makes out call
Umpire makes out call

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

If the so-called robot umpires are the future for baseball, and certainly the questionable home plate umpiring in the World Series has produced a new outcry toward that end, then Frank Viola figures he'll be remembered for something more than winning a World Series MVP and an American League Cy Young Award. 

"I was the first guy thrown out of a robotic-umpire game," Viola says with a laugh over the phone. "I'm in the history books."

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Stephen Strasburg/Zack Wheeler
Stephen Strasburg/Zack Wheeler

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

It's obvious that Gerrit Cole should be far and away the Yankees' top priority this offseason. But what if he really is determined to play in California, as so many people seem to think? 

Or what if Hal Steinbrenner isn't ready to break the budget for an ace? Where would Brian Cashman turn, then, for top-notch starting pitching -- the Yankees' only real need this winter? 

They will be looking for someone who can dominate a postseason start, not a regular season innings-eater, so that narrows the field considerably. 

Tags: Clint Frazier, Deivi Garcia, Estevan Florial, James Paxton, John Harper
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Joe Girardi
Joe Girardi

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

It just seemed so obvious, so logical, even so…easy…to hire Joe Girardi as the anti-Mickey Callaway and give a ready-to-win Mets team the best chance at maximizing its potential in 2020.

Instead the Mets allowed a division rival right down the Turnpike to hire Girardi and, man, Brodie Van Wagenen better find the next Alex Cora.

I'm not saying Van Wagenen can't still somehow come out of this looking good, if he does discover the right manager. But for the moment he's only furthered the perception that he thinks he's smarter than everybody else.

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Oct 17, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) reacts after striking out in the sixth inning against the Houston Astros in game four of the 2019 ALCS playoff baseball series at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports (Noah K. Murray)
Oct 17, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) reacts after striking out in the sixth inning against the Houston Astros in game four of the 2019 ALCS playoff baseball series at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports (Noah K. Murray)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

In the end, the Astros were a little better than the Yankees in all phases, yet with just a few clutch hits from some of their best players, as well as more dominance from the ballyhooed bullpen, the New Yorkers could have prevailed in the ALCS.

It doesn't mean Brian Cashman should overhaul this team by any means. The Astros are looking more and more like a potential dynasty: they're on the verge of winning two championships in three years, and they might well have won it all last year had Jose Altuve and a couple of other key players not been playing through injuries in October.

Mostly the Yankees need to keep knocking on the door, while hoping that Gerrit Cole leaves the Astros as a free agent and Justin Verlander starts looking his age.

Tags: Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, Aroldis Chapman, Brett Gardner, CC Sabathia, Chad Green, Didi Gregorius, Gary Sanchez, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, J.A. Happ, James Paxton, Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Tommy Kahnle, John Harper
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Oct 10, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Gerrit Cole (45) pitches during the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays in game five of the 2019 ALDS playoff baseball series at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports (Troy Taormina)
Oct 10, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Gerrit Cole (45) pitches during the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays in game five of the 2019 ALDS playoff baseball series at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports (Troy Taormina)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

You can make the case that if Aaron Judge had hit in the ALCS like Jose Altuve -- the guy who beat him out for MVP in 2017 -- the Yankees would still be alive in this postseason, and indeed that is sometimes the difference between winning and losing in October.

Your star needs to be better than their star.

However, I would argue that even if the Yankees were still alive, they'd have only the tiniest of chances to win Game 7 against the hottest pitcher in baseball, Gerrit Cole.

Tags: Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius, James Paxton, Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, John Harper
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John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The Yankees fought back, but ultimately Jose Altuve's walk-off home run ended their season, sending the Astros to the World Series with a 6-4 win. >> Box Score

Five things to know from Saturday's game

1) The Yankees gave everyone a dramatic finish but when all was said and done, the Astros left no doubt about which team was better in this series, as they won it in six games. They outplayed the Yankees in big ways and small, with stronger starting pitching, more game-changing home runs, smarter baserunning and especially sparkling defense, making some great plays that proved crucial in Game 6. 

Tags: Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, Brett Gardner, Chad Green, Didi Gregorius, Gary Sanchez, John Harper
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Oct 18, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher James Paxton (65) pitches against the Houston Astros during the fifth inning of game five of the 2019 ALCS playoff baseball series at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Oct 18, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher James Paxton (65) pitches against the Houston Astros during the fifth inning of game five of the 2019 ALCS playoff baseball series at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

Aaron Boone was already way out over his skis, at least from an analytics point of view. The game was in the sixth inning and he had stuffed the game plan in his back pocket because his eyes told him James Paxton was still dealing, third time through the lineup or not.

And good for Boone. If there's not room for a manager to make that type of call, based on what he's seeing, even in this analytics-heavy era, then what's the point of having him there at all?

In the end, Boone's judgment paved the way for the Yankees to get off the deck after the ugliness of Game 4 and beat Justin Verlander and the Astros 4-1 to send this series back to Houston.

Tags: Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner, James Paxton, John Harper
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John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The Yankees fought off elimination with a 4-1 win over the Astros in Game 5 of the ALCS. >> Box Score

Five things to know from Friday's game

1) In what amounted to a moment of truth for James Paxton in his first season with the Yankees, the lefty delivered the type of start Brian Cashman envisioned when he traded for him last November.

In fact, the Yankees GM was just hoping to have the injury-prone Paxton healthy come October, seeing him as a No. 1 starter, but the Big Maple had been spotty in his two

Tags: Aaron Hicks, Aroldis Chapman, James Paxton, John Harper
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Oct 17, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa (1) celebrates with designated hitter Yordan Alvarez (44) after hitting a three run home run as New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez (24) looks on during the sixth inning of game four of the 2019 ALCS playoff baseball series at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Oct 17, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa (1) celebrates with designated hitter Yordan Alvarez (44) after hitting a three run home run as New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez (24) looks on during the sixth inning of game four of the 2019 ALCS playoff baseball series at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Two years ago the Yankees owned the Astros in the Bronx portion of the ALCS, dominating a team that seemed to be unnerved by the hostile atmosphere, and though it didn't lead to a series win, such history offered great hope only a few days ago for the New Yorkers. 

However, it turns out that times have changed. The Astros are a grown-up, championship-hardened ballclub that clearly isn't intimidated by either the Yankees or the raucous Stadium crowd. 

This time around, in fact, they're doing the dominating in the Bronx, maybe even the intimidating, applying so much pressure in every phase of the game as to make the Yankees look overmatched, even rattled, making four errors in Thursday's ugly 8-3 loss that puts them on the brink of elimination.

Tags: Gleyber Torres, John Harper
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John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The Yankees fell to the Astros 8-3 on Thursday night and now trail the ALCS 3-1. >> Box Score

Five things to know from Tuesday's game

1) It certainly wasn't all Masahiro Tanaka's fault, but on a night when the Yankees needed his usual postseason dominance, he was so-so at best.

Tags: Chad Green, Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres, Masahiro Tanaka, John Harper
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John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The year was 1983 and Eduardo Perez, who seems to be emerging as a serious candidate for the Mets' managerial job, was spending most of his summer at Veterans Stadium where his dad, Hall of Famer Tony Perez, was playing with the Phillies, reunited with former Big Red Machine teammates Pete Rose and Joe Morgan

The way Eduardo has told the story to friends, he was always hanging around the dugout, even during games, when one day Rose called him over to sit beside him and said, "If you're going to be here every day you're going to learn something about this game."

And from there Rose made a point of tutoring young Eduardo, teaching him how to de-code the opposing team's signs, how to look for the various ways that pitchers can unknowingly tip pitches and how to pick up a pitcher's patterns that can tell a hitter what to expect at crucial moments in a game. 

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Oct 15, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) strikes out off a pitch by Houston Astros starting pitcher Gerrit Cole (45) during the seventh inning in game three of the 2019 ALCS playoff baseball series at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports (Robert Deutsch)
Oct 15, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) strikes out off a pitch by Houston Astros starting pitcher Gerrit Cole (45) during the seventh inning in game three of the 2019 ALCS playoff baseball series at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports (Robert Deutsch)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Your mission, Yankees, should you choose to accept it, is now to win three straight games or at best be doomed to facing Gerrit Cole in Game 7, which is pretty much a death sentence these days. 

Ok, choose isn't exactly the right word, since the Astros are going to have plenty to say about the Yankees getting on any type of roll in this ALCS, and obviously Justin Verlander would be no picnic in Game 6 as well. 

Tags: Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius, DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, Masahiro Tanaka, John Harper
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John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The Yankees fell to the Astros 4-1 at Yankee Stadium, and now trail 2-1 in the ALCS. >> Box Score

Five things to know from Tuesday's game

1) The Yankees' task just got a whole lot tougher, and not just because of the math. 

Tags: Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius, DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, John Harper
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John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The Yankees fell 3-2 to the Astros on Saturday in Game 2 of the ALCS, evening the series at 1-1.

Five things to know from Sunday's game

1.) For all the talk about the bullpen edge the Yankees have in this series, Game 2 proved that too much of a good thing can have its consequences.

Tags: Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, Aroldis Chapman, Brett Gardner, Cameron Maybin, CC Sabathia, Chad Green, DJ LeMahieu, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, J.A. Happ, James Paxton, Jonathan Loaisiga, Tommy Kahnle, John Harper
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 (Troy Taormina )
(Troy Taormina )

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The Yankees defeated the Astos 7-0 on Saturday in Game 1 of the ALCS, taking a 1-0 series lead. >> Box Score

Five things to know from Saturday's game

1) So who said the Astros have the advantage in the starting pitching in this ALCS, anyway?

Tags: Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, Masahiro Tanaka, John Harper
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Brodie Van Wagenen
Brodie Van Wagenen

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Nobody I've talked to thinks the Mets are hiring either Mike Bell or Derek Shelton as their next manager, even if the two relative unknowns are getting in-person interviews with GM Brodie Van Wagenen and his staff. 

As one executive from an AL team put it, "Most teams in this situation brings in guys like this that don't have a real chance of getting the job." 

With that in mind, the early speculation around baseball, at least among the scouts and execs I've spoken to this week, is leaning heavily toward the Mets making the obvious move and making Joe Girardi their next manager, if he doesn't wind up in Chicago with the Cubs instead. 

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Joe Girardi
Joe Girardi

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Brian Cashman may have fired Joe Girardi two years ago, but he still speaks glowingly of the job the former manager did with the Yankees, and doesn't hesitate to recommend that the Mets hire him.

"When you're talking about somebody like Joe, he'd give you instant credibility," Cashman told SNY on Wednesday. "He's buttoned-up, ready to go, and proven successful in the largest market you can find. And he came out on top.

"He was here for 10 years, and some things have an expiration date, but that doesn't diminish the abilities the person possesses or the quality of work he provides. I highly recommend Joe to anybody, even our rivals, unfortunately."

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John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Brian Cashman may have fired Joe Girardi two years ago, but he still speaks glowingly of the job the former manager did with the Yankees, and doesn't hesitate to recommend that the Mets hire him.

"When you're talking about somebody like Joe, he'd give you instant credibility," Cashman told SNY on Wednesday. "He's buttoned-up, ready to go, and proven successful in the largest market you can find. And he came out on top.

"He was here for 10 years, and some things have an expiration date, but that doesn't diminish the abilities the person possesses or the quality of work he provides. I highly recommend Joe to anybody, even our rivals, unfortunately."

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Buck Showalter
Buck Showalter

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The consensus on Buck Showalter as a potential Mets' managerial candidate comes from interviews with scouts, executives, and media members who all know him well, and it is straightforward: his attention to detail, in-game managing, and knack for having his team prepared is all second to none.

But…

He wants to do it his way, which can mean everything from input into personnel decisions to potential clashes over the level of day-to-day front-office involvement that characterized Brodie Van Wagenen's first year as GM. 

Tags: Jacob deGrom, Jeff McNeil, John Harper
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Oct 7, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Luis Severino (40) reacts after an out during the fourth inning of game three of the 2019 ALDS playoff baseball series against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports (David Berding)
Oct 7, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Luis Severino (40) reacts after an out during the fourth inning of game three of the 2019 ALDS playoff baseball series against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports (David Berding)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

In the end, the Yankees overmatched the Twins in every way possible, even adding spectacular defense to their championship resume, but by far the most significant development in this ALDS sweep of the Twins was the official return of Luis Severino.

With four shutout innings in the 5-1 win that featured some gutsy escapes from jams, Severino offered reason to believe he can at least be a third potentially dominant starter the Yankees need in this post-season, and perhaps at most the ace he has been at times in his young career.

Tags: Aaron Judge, Cameron Maybin, DJ LeMahieu, Edwin Encarnacion , Giancarlo Stanton, Gio Urshela, Gleyber Torres, Luis Severino, John Harper
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John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Five Takeaways from the Yankees' 5-1 win to sweep the Twins.

1) From start to finish the ALDS was a mismatch as the Yankees swept the Twins, and, as expected, the bullpens proved to be the most obvious difference between the teams. Or to put it another way: Aaron Boone's ballyhooed 'pen is living up to the hype so far.

Tags: Aaron Judge, Aroldis Chapman, DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, Jonathan Loaisiga, Luis Severino, Zack Britton, John Harper
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John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The baseball post-season is supposed to be unpredictable--a crapshoot, as many call it, most famously the sport's movie star GM, Billy Beane. Yet this Yankees-Twins series feels more like a 1-16 matchup in the NCAA Tournament.

And the Twins don't look like the University of Maryland - Baltimore County, taking down Virginia, circa 2017.

Tags: Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius, DJ LeMahieu, Edwin Encarnacion , Giancarlo Stanton, Masahiro Tanaka, John Harper
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