Growing up in the Bronx as a Mets’ fan was a lot of fun.
Watching the Yankees reel off championship after championship was just a blast.
Hate ’em or Love ’em, the Yankees are one of the most iconic and storied sports franchises in the world.
After making what was arguably the biggest splash this off-season, by acquiring reigning NL MVP, Giancarlo Stanton, I wanted to see how the fans of the Yankees were feeling headed into the 2018 season. (Probably pretty good.)
If you close your eyes and picture a Yankee fan..
That’s who I got to talk to me today.
2 Italian guys from the Bronx.
This was a lot of fun. Enjoy!
MOSTLY METS BLOG: First things first. Thoughts on the Stanton signing? Forgive me if that’s a stupid question. You signed the reigning MVP, but what’s your overall reaction? Could there be any possible downside?CHRISTOPHER SALZO: I love that they went out and got Stanton. I love when they go out and get any great player, the only thing I don’t want them to do is drain the farm system. We are already competing with many good prospects still in the system. I don’t want to risk years of possible success just to win right now. It’s not like it’s been 30 years since we’ve won, let’s build another dynasty, not play for one year. As for downside, there is always that risk when dealing with these mega contracts, the back end could be real bad, but Stanton is young, and after Trout, Harper, and Machado get their contracts Stanton’s could look like a discount. I always want my G.M. looking to make my team better. Tickets are ridiculous, a beer is $16 bucks, put that money back into the team.MMG: Yankees were a game away from the World series last year during what was supposed to be a rebuilding year. Is there anything in recent memory you wish Cashman had done differently though? Girardi?CS: I have only two things I could think of that I wish Cashman did differently, one is not signing Ellsbury at that price, although, if Cashman doesn’t make that move at the time I’m sure some Yankee fans would have criticized him for NOT making the move. These decisions are all easier in retrospect. The second is not bringing back Girardi. He managed 10 seasons, made 6 playoff appearances (missed in ’08, ’13, ’14, and ’16) 4 LCS’s (’09, ’10, ’12, and ’17) and a World Series championship in ’09. Most teams would kill for that kind of success. Anywhere but New York, specifically the Yankees, and he would have gotten a contract extension. He wasn’t perfect, he bothered me at times, specifically how he handled the pitching staff, sometimes he had a quick hook, but the last couple seasons, particularly last year with how strong the bullpen was you couldn’t blame him. This team was supposed to be rebuilding, and he almost took them to the Series. I trusted him, and I think he got a raw deal. Boone taking over is a joke. I appreciate that home run he hit but it shouldn’t get you a job. I hit a few big home runs for Quality Meats when I played at Throggs Neck Little League, they didn’t hire me as the butcher. My point, he has no experience, at any level! Joe Girardi wasn’t immediately hired by the Yankees, he had to win Manager of the Year in Florida first, I don’t know how they make this hire, it’s so un-Yankee like. Let’s hope this line-up is so stacked it doesn’t matter.MMG: On one of the biggest stages, Aaron Boone provided one of the most dramatic Yankee moments in postseason history. What are your thoughts on Boone taking over as Yankee manager? Also, what is your favorite Yankee moment?CS: It’s really hard for me to pick one favorite Yankee moment, as I’ve been fortunate enough to experience many great moments. Jim Leyritz’s home run off Mark Wohlers in Game 4 of the ’96 series is a real stand-out. You have to realize how different the atmosphere was in ’96. The Braves were the defending champs, and the Yankees had lost to Seattle the year before, our first playoff appearance in years. The Yankees were heavy dogs and the Braves won the first two at Yankee Stadium. We won Game 3 but were losing Game 4 by three in the eighth inning and about to go down 3-1 in the series. I thought we were dead and I remember being real down. Then Leyritz came up, and he used to spin the bat with one hand between pitches, it was cool, I was 13 and always got a kick out of that. Wohlers was in the game and he was a very good reliever at the time, their closer if I’m not mistaken. Then it happened, it’s only the second time I ever saw something that awesome, where I jumped out of my seat feeling that rush.(Mattingly hit a walk-off at the Stadium the year before against Seattle) We won that game in 10 innings, never lost another game, and won three out of the next four World Series. Leyritz became King Jim, Wohlers’ career ended, and the Braves haven’t won a World Series game since Game 2 1996. That home run started a dynasty.MMG: Which Yankee reliever currently in the bullpen do you trust the most? The least?CS: The reliever I currently trust the most is probably Robertson, with Kahnle a very close second. I don’t trust Betances at all, but I think he will turn it around.MMG: To say the Yankees have had an insane amount of success since you’ve been a fan would be an understatement. As a fan, is the atmosphere when they reach the postseason still fresh? Is the intensity where you live and die with each pitch still there?CS: Last year really brought me back to the old days, where I really hung on every pitch. The Yankees had so much success for so long that, I’m not saying it was boring, or I didn’t love it, but you almost expected it. For a few years there I would have told you I’d trade a World Series or two for a Ranger Stanley Cup, or a Jet Super Bowl victory. The Yankees won a World Series three out of the four years I was in high school, I got spoiled.MMG: In your view, what’s the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry like in 2018?
CS: The Yanks/Red Sox rivalry is heating up again. Both teams are very good. They won the division last year so technically we’re chasing them. I think this year will be the most exciting it’s been since I was young and it was crazy.
MMG: Which opposing player, past or present, still gives you nightmares? Who’s your “Yankee killer?”
CS: If I had to pick a Yankee killer it would be a tie between Randy Johnson and Ken Griffey Jr. Even when our teams were dominant they seemed to beat us, they really got up to play the Yankees.
MMG: What is one area you feel like the Yankees need to improve in?
CS: I’m pretty happy with this current Yankee line-up. I think it could win. In a perfect world, I’d like one more starter, then I think we’d be the team to beat in the A.L.
MMG: Give us your 2018 Yankees prediction.
CS: This team has too much talent not to compete. I think some guys will come back down to earth a little. Judge probably won’t hit .280 with 52 again, that’s unfair to expect every year. He gives me .260 35-40 I’ll call it a win. I also think some guys will improve, imagine what Bird can do with a full, healthy season, and if Sanchez learns how to catch a baseball forget about it. I think barring injuries this team will get right back to the ALCS, possibly a re-match with Houston, because they aren’t going anywhere either. Anything less will be a disappointment, anything more is possible but shouldn’t be EXPECTED. Anything could happen. It should be a fun season.
MMG: Finally, a two part question. Who is your favorite Yankee ever?Must win game. Which Yankee, past or present do you want on the mound?
CS: My favorite Yankee ever is Derek Jeter. I don’t think I have to explain why. He was most clutch player and is the face of the dynasty. Aside from Jeter, I would say Paul O’Neill. I mean who cared more than Pauly O? This guy never gave an at-bat away. His intensity was memorable, no one could ever question his passion for the game.One game, must win, I’m taking Andy Pettitte in his prime. It’s close, you could go C.C. in his prime and I wouldn’t flinch, but Pettitte was a big time pitcher, very clutch. I don’t know the exact stat, but he won many games following a Yankee loss, regular and post-season. Tremendous!
Jon E. Love
MOSTLY METS BLOG: First things first. Thoughts on the Stanton signing? Forgive me if that’s a stupid question. You signed the reigning MVP, but what’s your overall reaction? Could there be any possible downside?JON E. LOVE: Remember it was a trade, not a signing. That all being said, how could I not be pumped? It was a no brainer for Cashman and the Yankees as much as we didn’t need another Outfielder. The main downside is the last 4-5 years of the contract. It’s amazing to me that they weren’t even out from under the ARod contract for a month before replacing it with another insane contract. I found that bizarre, but it’s the Yankees and it’s a Yankee type of move so…MMG: Yankees were a game away from the World series last year during what was supposed to be a rebuilding year. Is there anything in recent memory you wish Cashman had done differently though? Girardi?JEL: Honestly, Cashman has been particularly adept in making smart trades and signings the last few years. Rebuilding on the fly never seems to work in professional sports, yet this guy pulled it off just like that. It’s really quite amazing what he’s pulled off. Most of the time, he didn’t give up anyone of major value in these trades (at least in the moves these last 3 years). He’s not made any moves that really irked me besides the Ellsbury and Headley deals. Headley is now gone, but the Ellsbury deal continues to haunt us. You never give a mega deal to a guy coming off a career year. I didn’t want Yanks to give Cano a 10 yr deal for the money he wanted that offseason and it was a smart move not to, but when Cashman then gave Ellsbury 7 yrs/$163 mil I was confused and flustered and at that point would’ve rather just brought Cano back. That signing never made any sense to me.As far as Girardi’s dismissal….I’m mixed on that. Guy is a damn good manager, as much as I’ve never personally been fond of him. He drove me crazy with a lot of his decisions and being so beholden to “the binder.” He was basically the anti-Torre; but not one losing season in 10 years, and what he did with last year’s team was remarkable when this team was expected to win 82-85 games at best. Time will tell on going from Girardi to Boone. Definitely risky.MMG: On one of the biggest stages, Aaron Boone provided one of the most dramatic Yankee moments in postseason history. What are your thoughts on Boone taking over as Yankee manager? Also, what is your favorite Yankee moment?
JEL: I don’t really have any thoughts yet on Boone. He’s a total unknown as a manager, so that all remains to be seen. When you think you know something usually you don’t, see: “Clueless Joe” NY Daily News headline in Nov or Dec of 95′ after Joe Torre’s introduction press conference. Ya never know.Favorite Yankee moment would have to be either them winning it all in 96′ (because that was the first Yankees title I witnessed, and the first is always the sweetest in sports) but if you want an individual moment or play….ironically I might have to go with Aaron Boone walkoff in game 7 of ALCS in 03′. Yankees were down 4-0 early vs Pedro and they looked done and then a run here and a run there (two Giambi solo shots) and then that 7th inning rally….and next thing you know we had a tie game which led to the extra inning dramatics later on with Boone, who prior to that had done NOTHING as a Yankee after we acquired him at the trade deadline that season. Probably the most emotional Yankee moment I’ve lived through, along with hearing Don Mattingly announced and the stadium going bananas before game 1 of the 95′ ALCS vs the Mariners.MMG: Which Yankee reliever currently in the bullpen do you trust the most? The least?JEL: Most: Robertson. Least: Betances. That all is subject to change once next season gets rolling….hopefully Betances finds his stuff again. Crazywhat’s happened to him. I sense if he turns it around he’ll be traded shortly after once his stock is high again.MMG: To say the Yankees have had an insane amount of success since you’ve been a fan would be an understatement. As a fan, is the atmosphere when they reach the postseason still fresh? Is the intensity where you live and die with each pitch still there?JEL: It hadn’t been fresh for awhile, even in the last Core 4 playoff appearance. I personally got spoiled due to the late 90’s and early 00’s….but I was still living and dying with each pitch in the playoffs. This postseason, with this new young team, the intensity returned to what it once was in the 90s and 00s’. It felt new again and not blasé blasé anymore. When I went to games in both the Indians and Astros series’ this past October, it was the most charged up I’ve ever seen the new Yankee Stadium. New life got injected into the building again with this team and it really brought a lot of fun and energy back to it.MMG: In your view, what’s the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry like in 2018?JEL: Not quite sure. Both teams are good again at the same time which is important for the rivalry, but it needs a new signature moment or two to really get amped up again to late 90s/early 00s levels, something that we’ll be hard pressed to ever see again. Maybe a bench clearing brawl of some type, or both teams fighting for the same free agent can get it amped up further. We shall see what happens.MMG: Which opposing player, past or present, still gives you nightmares? Who’s your “Yankee killer?”JEL: Hard to give just one. The main ones who come to mind are George Brett, Edgar Martinez, Ken Griffey Jr, Manny Ramirez, and Big Papi, who I saw consistently kill the Yankees in my lifetime. Papi and Martinez were probably the two biggest Yankee killers.MMG: What is one area you feel like the Yankees need to improve in?JEL: 3rd base offensive output. Manny Machado will obviously solve that problem if he is a Yankee come 2019.MMG: Give us your 2018 Yankees prediction.JEL: AL East winners, but losing in the ALDS. Boone has to get managerial experience under his belt, and everyone who had amazing seasons last year will likely not quite have the same seasons this year. Sophomore slump could be coming. I’m a pessimist at nature, though not usually with the Yankees. They overachieved last season. I sense they may underachieve a little this season where 2019 will be the year they win it all again, 10 years after their last World Championship.MMG: Finally, a two part question. Who is your favorite Yankee ever?Must win game. Which Yankee, past or present do you want on the mound?
JEL: TIE: Derek Jeter and Don Mattingly. Honorable Mentions: Mariano Rivera, Andy Petitte, and Paul O’Neill.Must win game. Which Yankee, past or present do you want on the mound?El Duque, one of the best big game pitchers I’ve ever seen on the Yankees, going the first six, Mo closing it out the last 3.