The Dawn of the New Season…

Photo Credit: AP


Opening Day is nearly upon us…

Finally, and long overdue, we will soon enter Baseball Week as the 2020 MLB Season is just a short 5 days away. All hail, Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio! Nothing against the Yankee Clipper, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Derek Jeter or Alfred Manual Martin, Jr but I will be glad when we’re Adam Ottavino’s jersey away from first pitch!

I have to admit that a Gerrit Cole versus Max Scherzer match-up in the Nation’s Capitol is as excited as I’ve been to see a regular season game in a very long time. I know, these two were on the same field together last October when they faced each other in Game 1 of the 2019 World Series. The Washington Nationals won that game, 5-4, at time when we didn’t really care and actually wanted Cole to lose while wearing the disgraced uniform of the Houston Astros. Times have changed, and Yankee fans will be resoundingly behind Gerrit Cole this time around as we cheer from our Lazy Boy recliners and couches. Aside from the pandemic, it’s a wonderful time to be alive and fans of the greatest and most-storied baseball franchise.

Aside from the back to back dingers by Miguel Andujar and Mike Ford, Cole looked ready to go in his last “spring” performance before Opening Day. He threw 87 pitches, 53 for strikes, while giving up only four hits and striking out seven. It’s the dawn of a new era and I am glad Gerrit Cole represents the face and the arm of the Yankees’ starting rotation for the next decade. Welcome, Gerrit, your debut with the famed interlocking N-Y cap on your head as you stare down at the defending World Champions at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. will be a magical moment for all of us. We will be as excited to see you pitch as young Caden Cole and his mother will be. Okay, Caden might be more interested in his mother’s breast but it’s still a thrilling time.   

Photo Credit: Kathy Willens, AP


Giancarlo Stanton takes the brunt of frustration from Yankees fans but I really hope this is a strong year for the Yankees slugger. I’ve been disappointed with his inability to stay healthy, like everyone else, but under the premise “the glass is half full”, I am hopeful and optimistic Stanton can be the force he was for the 2017 Miami Marlins.

I harbor the same hope for health and productivity when it comes to Aaron Judge but he has had an easier time with the fan base. Having Stanton and Judge batting in the same lineup is almost as exciting as Gerrit Cole on the mound, especially considering their bats will be protected by Miguel Andujar, Gleyber Torres and Gary Sanchez, among others. Sorry Luke, not purposely trying to exclude you. 

I doubt he’s ready by Thursday but I am excited to see D.J. LeMahieu back in Yankees camp after his recovery from COVID-19. Hopefully, if he’s not ready, he soon will be. I want to see LeMahieu force the Yankees to give him an extension. I am not ready for this guy’s Yankees career to end after the upcoming shortened season. I know, Le Machine is 32 years old (Happy Belated Birthday to him, by the way…his birthday was last Monday). The Yankees are age-adverse in modern times, unless your name is Brett Gardner, so age is not exactly D.J.’s friend in upcoming negotiations but I think he can be a very effective player for a few more years and I’d rather see him do it Pinstripes.

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, The New York Post


Granted, I haven’t followed the story closely, but why does it matter that Clint Frazier will wear a mask during games? That’s his right. I have no issue with it. The mask doesn’t hit or field. Frazier just needs to prove he can stay healthy and perform well when he is on the field. I couldn’t care less if he is wearing a mask even if he’s the only player on the field with one. I am a firm believer that masks are to help protect you from me and not vice versa. So, Clint’s statement is that he cares about his teammates. What’s wrong with that message? I haven’t exactly been Clint’s biggest supporter but on this issue, please leave him alone. 

Photo Credit: Elsa, Getty Images


Domingo German caused a stir on Social Media yesterday when he posted a pic of himself on a St Petersburg, FL beach which fades into a pic of him and his small son, followed by the words “Me fui del baseball. Gracias mi gente.” which translates to “I’ve left baseball. Thanks everyone”. My first reaction was that it is simply his way of saying goodbye to baseball in 2020 since he’ll be serving his suspension for the duration of the season, but media speculation centered on the possibility he’s leaving the game permanently. With the money he stands to make in future years, it does seem foolish that he’d walk away entirely at age 27. I am hopeful the words are only an expression for the frustration he feels at the moment, and once he’s cleared to play, he’ll return with the same passion for the game he once had as a young pitcher trying to make the Major Leagues. With the potential losses in the Yankees’ starting rotation in the off-season, they’ll need guys like German if the younger arms are not ready. Granted, German has to do what’s best for him and his family but I do believe his future is brighter in the game, particularly if he is able to build upon his success last season. Everyone deserves a second chance and German is no exception.

 

I don’t know why I was saddened to see the news the Yankees had released pitcher Adam Warren from his minor league contract. He was not going to pitch this year after Tommy John surgery and he wasn’t exactly setting the World on fire with his teams after leaving the Yankees last time. But he has always been effective for the Yankees and I guess I was hoping to see if he would be able to rekindle the magic in Pinstripes next season. I am sure the release was due to coronavirus roster management as some have reported but I am hopeful the Yankees can sign Warren to a re-negotiated minor league contract. Jack Curry of the YES Network, a trusted source, did report Warren was a “casualty” of new COVID-19 rules and Brian Cashman said the Yankees will re-sign in the winter (per Twitter). I hope so.

The Yankees have signed all three draft picks from the recent MLB draft. Second baseman/outfielder Trevor Hauver of Arizona State University was the last to sign. Jack Curry reported that Hauver signed for $587,000. Pitcher Beck Way, LSU, previously signed for $600,000, and catcher Austin Wells was the first to ink his name on a Yankees contract for a cool $2.5 million.

To borrow and modify the famous words of former Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully, it’s time for Yankees baseball!  Let’s go! Coronavirus Champions or bust! We got this.

As always, Go Yankees!

KC Rain 1, Yankees 0…

Photo Credit: USA Today

Rainout forces Day/Night Doubleheader Today…

Although the rain clouds seem to have followed the team on their trip to the Midwest, not much else has dampened the excitement of the 2019 New York Yankees. The unprecedented rash of multiple injuries that has landed so many guys on the 10-day/60-day Injured Lists has not seemed to slow down this fun and exciting team. In the long run, the team will be better off when Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Luis Severino, and others return, but for now, I am certainly enjoying the ride.

We were given some great news yesterday when Manager Aaron Boone announced that shortstop Didi Gregorius will begin a rehab assignment in Tampa on Saturday.  With a maximum of 20 days allowed for rehab, we’re less than three weeks away from Sir Didi’s return. It could be sooner than later since Didi probably does not need the full 20 days to get Major League ready. This feels like a great, great mid-season pickup. I don’t want to take away from the tremendous job done by Gleyber Torres during Didi’s absence. Gleyber and DJ LeMahieu have been outstanding working together at shortstop and second. Once Didi reclaims short, Gleyber will slide back over to second and LeMahieu will most likely be redeployed at third base, moving Giovanny Urshela, who has also done a brilliant job, into the utility role. I love the job Gio has done and his glove is special but you can’t take LeMahieu out of the lineup. He’ll probably see time at first base too on the days Luke Voit handles DH. The potential losers, to me, appear to be Kendrys Morales and Troy Tulowitzki.  Tulo has expressed willingness to play other positions but seriously I’d rather have Gio and Thairo Estrada than Tulo on the Major League Roster. Estrada will probably lose out since he has options but it’s too bad because he has proven he belongs. There’s no scenario I see Tulo with the Yankees next year.

When Didi had his Tommy John surgery last year, I thought it was ridiculous of those who said he could be back by May or June. I honestly felt that has an overly aggressive timetable, yet here we are.  We’re very fortunate Didi has not dealt with the setbacks encountered by other injured team players like Luis Severino and Giancarlo Stanton. For Didi, everything has seemed to go according to plan from the first day following the surgery. It is a credit to the man Didi is, mixed with a little luck, I am sure. For as great a player Didi is, I’ve missed his infectious personality despite how fun the 2019 Yankees have been. While I feel bad for those who will lose playing time, I am excited about Didi’s return and the team is better with his presence. I know my Twitter account is looking forward to seeing Didi’s post-game Emoji tweets.

Credit: @sirdidig18 on Instagram

I thought Giancarlo Stanton would be back before Gregorius but it does not appear to be the case. Hopefully the current rest for Stanton puts him back on track when he returns to baseball activities within the next couple of weeks. I’m all for limiting Brett Gardner’s play in left field and putting Stanton in right until Aaron Judge returns would go a long way toward making Gardy the valuable bench player he should be at this stage of his career.

I am not going to lie, I am worried about James Paxton. The reports of continued pain in his balky knee are troubling.  Everyone is holding their collective breath for how Paxton feels today. Pitching four innings in extended Spring Training yesterday, there is concern how the knee will react to the workload today. I know my knee would be saying “F**k this s**t!” Paxton has expressed the desire to pitch through the pain but that’s hardly comforting. As much as I like Paxton as a starter, there’s no denying that him and the Injured List are fond of each other. To be fair, I am sure Paxton doesn’t want to be on the Injured List. It is what it is. I am not going to overreact to say the Yankees need to sign Dallas Keuchel now or after the June draft to avoid draft pick compensation, but there’s no question the Yankees will need to do something to reinforce the starting rotation.

I don’t really think Keuchel is the answer. If he was, other teams would be rushing to sign him yet there has been nothing but crickets surrounding the pitcher who was clearly on the downward slope of career regression last season. If Keuchel was all that and a bag of chips, the Houston Astros would have resigned him long ago. I probably feel the same way about Madison Bumgarner. The guy continues to live off a World Series reputation from five years ago but doesn’t have the current stats to justify ace status or his post-season aura. I think there are better options and trust that GM Brian Cashman and staff will uncover the right arm to add. There’s no reason to overpay for pitchers that have seen their better days. Yankees Twitter seems to be implying that a deal for Max Scherzer is imminent (I highly doubt it) but that’s the type of arm I’d like to see in July. Scherzer remains among the best in Baseball and his team, the Washington Nationals, are going nowhere. A couple of bad games have inflated his ERA and his win/loss total is more reflective of the team he plays for, but generally speaking Max will give you seven innings every outing, limiting the opponent to two or fewer runs. He’s a workhorse and would significantly improve the Yankees rotation and help keep the bullpen fresh. I am sure a pennant chase would energize him. I thought Scherzer would have been a perfect Yankee when he was a free agent a couple of years ago when the Yankees were mentioned as the favorite to sign him. It didn’t happen but Scherzer has done nothing to sway my high opinion of him. The cost to get him is another matter, but that’s a problem for Brian Cashman to figure out.

Photo Credit: Hunter Martin, Getty Images

Manny Machado makes his first return to Yankee Stadium this week when the San Diego Padres arrive in the Bronx on Monday for a three-game series. It will be Manny’s first appearance there since he played for the Baltimore Orioles last season. No doubt, good or bad, he’ll receive a reaction from the Bronx crowd, more so than any other Padre who takes the field. Sorry, Adam Warren. Machado has already made the Los Angeles Dodgers pay for their decision not to resign him. In five games against his former team, he has hit 4 home runs and has driven in 7 RBIs. He is batting .368/.429/1.105, with 1.534 OPS in those games. I am sure he’ll be as motivated against the Yankees as he was with the Dodgers. While I wanted the Yankees to sign Machado last winter, that ship sailed and I am not going to cry over spilt milk. I just hope Yankee pitching is up for the task and is able to keep Machado’s bat relatively quiet for the three games. Let him take out his frustrations on the Orioles when they play next month.

Photo Credit: KC Alfred, The San Diego Union-Tribune

Don’t look now, but the Yankees’ home record of 267 team homers last year is in jeopardy. Before the season, we thought the 2019 Yankees might be the team to assault last year’s record but it is the Minnesota Twins who are currently leading the pack. Through 50 games, the Twins have slugged 101 homers and are on pace for 327 round-trippers. Although they have yet to be acknowledged as one of the AL’s best teams, they possess the best record in MLB at 34-16 (.680 winning percentage). Things seem to be going right for first-year Manager Rocco Baldelli in the Twin Cities. I kind of feel badly for Tyler Austin who was shipped from the Twins to the San Francisco Giants earlier this season. The Giants have settled in to the NL West Cellar and will undoubtedly camp out there for the duration of the year. At least Tyler is getting some great pics in San Francisco.

Photo Credit: @taustin2121 on Instagram

Speaking of San Francisco, the Giants are calling up outfielder Mike Yastrzemski according to Jon Heyman. I know, why talk about a young player with a direct bloodline to a former Red Sox great (grandson of Carl Yastrzemski), but I’ve been following young Yaz since he was a baby prospect in the Baltimore Orioles organization. I lived in Frederick, MD when he played for the Single A Frederick Keys. He didn’t succeed for the O’s but he is enjoying second life in the Giants organization (a team that, it seems, is annually in search of outfielders). At 28, he’s no longer a “prospect” but I wish him the very best as he finally arrives in The Show.

If you haven’t signed up to subscribe to Mike Axisa’s twice-weekly newsletter (https://www.patreon.com/RABthoughts), you are missing out. For the low price of $3 per month, Axisa continues to deliver the outstanding commentary, backed by  his deep insight, thoughts, and statistics, we grew accustomed to with the late River Ave Blues blog. Axisa remains one of my favorites, if not the favorite, and he’s so much better than many of the professional (allegedly) Yankee beat writers. Trust me, you look forward to Tuesdays and Fridays when Axisa’s Patreon email lands in your inbox.

Credit to Max Wildstein (@MaxWildstein on Twitter) for this one: “Domingo Germán is 9-1. Chris Sale is 1-6.” Baseball is funny or as John Sterling says, “Well, Suzyn, you know, you just can’t predict baseball”. But it reinforces why 2019 is so much more enjoyable than 2018.

The Yanks play two today, thanks to yesterday’s rainout. I couldn’t ask for a better scenario than last night when both the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox lost while the Yankees watched the rain fall in Kansas City. Today would be an awesome day for two NYY victories.

As always, Go Yankees!

The Resilient Yankees Capture 1st Place…

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II/AP

Comeback Win Vaults Yankees Past Rays in AL East…

Okay, it’s just mid-May and like Aaron Boone alluded to last night after the game, it’s a long season ahead. Yet, it is satisfying to sit atop the AL East even if it is only temporary depending upon the outcome of today’s game. Standings will become more important in the months ahead but I continue to be amazed at the resiliency of this team.

Gio Urshela’s run-scoring single in the bottom of the ninth inning to win it last night may have been his game-winning hit, but it’s a microcosm of this season and how well the replacement Yankees have stepped up to support the team in the wake of injuries to multiple major team stars. I was kind of hoping Kendrys Morales would have his signature Yankee moment in his second game with a home run in the bottom of the ninth, which would have been his second of the game, to win it but it was not meant to be. Kendrys was probably wishing too hard for a homer too and that’s why he struck out. Oh well, Gio was there to pick him up.

To answer your question, yes Michael Kay, the Yankees had a rally in their bones.

Credit Luke Voit for the home run to open the bottom of the ninth to cut it to a one-run deficit. Perhaps the Yankees were destined to win it anyway but the homer changed the mood in the air. As a TV viewer, I know I was feeling a lift even if the Yankees were still trailing at that point after only putting up one run (the Morales homer in the bottom of the second) the prior eight innings.

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg/NY Post

I’ve seen many jump on Aaron Boone for pitching Chad Green in the eighth inning when the Rays put two runs on the board to break the 1-1 tie. I had no problem with the move. After the game, Boone indicated that the decision was to avoid Zack Britton this game since he had thrown 31 pitches in Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles. Aroldis Chapman would have only entered in a save situation. But even without his explanation for not using Britton (or Chapman), I had no problem with Boone’s decision to bring Green into the high leverage situation. I’m sure Green would have liked a mulligan on the sixth pitch to Brandon Lowe, which Lowe ripped to deep center for a run-scoring double, but otherwise, I thought he pitched very effectively. The unearned run on the errant throw to first base by Gleyber Torres which allowed another run to score was not Green’s fault. The bullpen has been pitching so well lately, I guess the fans have come to expect zeros every time a Yankee reliever takes the mound but guess what, shit happens. I want Chad Green to be a big part of this bullpen and I hope Boone keeps rolling him out in high leverage spots. I am convinced he rediscovered himself with his brief stay in Scranton a couple of weeks ago and the results, over a broader span, will prove it. Say what you will, but I think Aaron Boone has improved as a manager over the course of two seasons.

Great job by CC Sabathia. Outside of the fourth inning solo dinger by Willy Adames which tied the game, Sabathia was excellent. It was his longest start of the season at six innings, with an economical 84 pitches. He only walked two batters, while striking out four, and lowered his season ERA to 2.97 with the single earned run on the Adames homer. The four K’s pushed the future Hall of Famer’s career strikeout total to 3,013.

Photo Credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images

This is a strange season. I am excited about how well the Yankees have done despite missing so many huge parts of the team. On the other hand, I keep wondering when the shoe is going to drop. I really hope the replacements can keep this up until we start to get the big guns back.

Before the Yankees completed their comeback win, the Houston Astros exerted their position as the best team in the American League, right now, with their 3-1 win over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Despite their sluggish start, the Red Sox have been very strong lately as they have charged back into AL East relevance (which I had fully expected, hence, the reason I never talked smack when the Red Sox were down). The Red Sox loss and the Yankee win leaves the Sox 4 1/2 games behind the Yankees…not that it matters at this point. I didn’t watch the Astros-Red Sox game but I did see enough to shake my head and say that Alex Bregman is incredible. He didn’t do anything with his bat (1-for-4, a meaningless first inning single) but his defense play was, as usual, outstanding. Such a great all-around player. It really makes me appreciate Gio Urshela as the Yankees’ third baseman in Miguel Andujar’s absence.  A great glove at third cannot be underestimated. After the Rays game, CC Sabathia was asked if he had ever played with anyone as good defensively as Urshela, and CC couldn’t come up with a name.

Last winter, I had wanted the Yankees to sign Manny Machado for his all-around play. Who knows if he can keep it up, but at this point, Urshela has provided everything I wanted from Machado at a fraction of the cost. Manny is batting .268/.346/.470 with .347 wOBA and 120 wRC+ (1.4 WAR) in 44 games. He has 9 homers and 23 RBIs. In 10 fewer games, Urshela is batting .347/.398/.500 with .384 wOBA and 142 wRC+ (1.0 WAR).  He has 2 home runs and 16 RBIs. Granted, Machado has more power but Urshela has more than fulfilled expectations. I am not saying that Urshela will ever be the player Machado is, but I really hope that he is able to keep this up to prevent GM Brian Cashman from going outside to get further help at third base. It would be awesome if this is truly Urshela’s breakout year. Not sure how this plays out when Didi Gregorius returns to take shortstop, creating an infield crowd. But that’s a problem for another day. Today, I’ll gladly watch Urshela with amazement, play after play, day after day.

I guess it was in the back of all of our minds but it was rough hearing Carlos Beltran say that Aaron Judge will not fully recover from the oblique injury this season. I know, it’s a core muscle and anyone who has had a similar injury knows how difficult it is to let the muscle rest. In other words, you can’t. Hopefully Judge is able to get healthy enough to help the team at some point in the not-so-distant future although he hasn’t resumed baseball activities yet. I’d rather he waits until he is truly ready, even though he won’t be 100%, and not try to come back too soon. We need Judge when the summer months get here.

 

Photo Credit: Paul J Bereswill/NY Post

It’s a new day. Let’s hope the Yankees magic continues today (and tomorrow and the next day…). As with The Three Musketeers, same with The Twenty-Five New York Yankees, “all for one and one for all”.

As always, Go Yankees!

Let the Wins Continue…

Houston’s tough, but Yankees march on…

I really wanted a victory in Houston, Texas on Thursday night. The Yankees’ 2-1 loss to the Astros ultimately means nothing other than a rare loss for the Yankees. Yet, a win would have left better feelings, for Yankees fans, until the two teams renew their rivalry in an isolated doubleheader in Houston on Thursday, July 21st, the first day back from the All-Star break.

The Yankees need to figure out the Astros. The two teams are evenly matched talent-wise, but the Yankees must match Houston’s confidence in winning the games. The Astros play like they know they are going to win the games from the first pitch. It does not mean the Yankees do not have the same mentality, but they do not outwardly show the same confidence. Winning a couple of games in few weeks at Minute Maid Park would give a huge boost to the team’s confidence and better prepare the Yankees for the destined collision with the Astros in the playoffs.

Thanks to last night’s rainout in Cleveland, Ohio, we had to sit on the Astros loss an extra night. Today is a good day to erase the negative feelings and start a new winning streak. A day/night doubleheader features Gerrit Cole and Nestor Cortes Jr. The Guardians trail the Minnesota Twins by only a game and a half in the AL Central, winning three of five games against the Twins this week. The five wins included two walk-offs against the beleaguered Twins bullpen, so the Guardians enter the Yankees series with some momentum.

Earlier today, the Guardians called up LHP Kirk McCarty as their 27th man for the doubleheader and he will get the start against Gerrit Cole. RHP Aaron Civale (2-4, 7.20 ERA) gets the nod for the nightcap tangle with Nasty Nestor. While it looks like advantage Yankees, they still must play these games. Hoping that Nestor’s recent bumpy stretch has subsided, and Cole gets some run (hit) support.

Gerrit Cole / Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin, NY Post

Every day that does not feature Joey Gallo in the lineup is a good day. There was a time when I thought Joey Gallo was the better option to retain over Aaron Hicks, but the tide has turned. Like many (most?) Yankee fans, I am done with Gallo. It sucks because I like the guy and he has a terrific personality that fits well in the Yankees clubhouse, but the at-bats have become too painful and too predictable. For a team with World Series ambitions, there cannot be an automatic out in the batting order. Hits and runs will get harder in October when the Yankees are facing the opponent’s best pitchers. Giving away at-bats is unacceptable.

Future Ex-Yankee Joey Gallo / Photo Credit: AP

This is where I disagree with many Yankee fans. I routinely see fans post that Gallo should simply be cut. I get the calls for the talent in Triple A (namely Estevan Florial and Miguel Andujar), but this is a business and there is value for a player like Gallo whether you believe it or not. He has proven unsuccessful on the BIG stage but that does not mean he cannot prosper under a smaller microscope like he did in Texas. I bet Gallo could go somewhere like Pittsburgh and resume his barrage of bombs. The Yankees will not recapture the level of talent they gave up acquiring Gallo (Trevor Hauver, Ezequiel Duran, Glenn Otto, and Josh Smith…the Yankees also received Joely Rodriguez who was flipped for Miguel Castro earlier this year), but they can get something. Yankees fill-in starter JP Sears was once part of the return for an insignificant reliever, Nick Rumbelow. Gallo can fetch some lottery chips for the future and the receiving team could get an extraordinarily strong return on their investment. Sonny Gray is a recent example of a player who can thrive away from the bright lights of New York, but he is hardly the first or the last player.

Cutting Gallo makes no sense to me despite my desire to see him on the bench. I look at these days as his final days in pinstripes. The end is coming soon, and hopefully GM Brian Cashman can get player(s) that will help in a few years. The Yankees are 56-21 and have a 12-game lead over the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL East and have the AL’s best record by 6 ½ games. There is no urgency to drop Gallo. Better to hold onto him slightly longer and try to get something for him. I wish Gallo no ill will and I hope he does find success at his next destination, but he is welcome to continue whiffing at pitches when he plays the Yankees.

Aroldis Chapman is back and not the Yankees Closer. A couple of weeks ago, Manager Aaron Boone seemed to imply Chapman would be restored as the team’s closer or at the very least share the role with super Closer Clay Holmes, but when Chapman was activated yesterday, Boone stated that Holmes would remain the Closer. This is welcome news. I expect Chapman to be better than he was in late May and hopefully he has improved his mechanics while he has been away.

Former Closer Aroldis Chapman / Photo Credit: Elsa, Getty Images

Holmes has been such welcome relief (pun intended) in closing games for the Yankees. Nobody’s perfect, but Holmes has been tremendous. I bet the Los Angeles Dodgers would love to have a Clay Holmes closing games for them. Many (all?) teams would. Seemingly, Chapman is done as a Yankee when his contract expires at the end of the season. It appears improbable they will re-sign him. He has been a great closer for the Yankees, with a fan base that was heavily spoiled by the legendary, unanimous Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera. But it is time for the changing of the guard. So, I am glad the decision to deploy Chapman in the best situations over the end of games has been made. Choose your spots. I will miss Chappy’s stare at the end of games, but I am sure there will be a few of those mixed in along the way. I can see Chapman being more effective under the new plan while representing insurance if, heaven forbid, something where to happen to Holmes. With his declining velocity, I hope Chapman figures it out and thrives in his new role. There is no reason he cannot be part of a World Series celebration.

I thought Ryan Weber, called up when the Yankees returned JP Sears to the minors, would be the casualty for Chapman’s activation, but he lives to see another day. Miguel Castro was placed on parental leave which has bought Weber a little more time.

Congratulations to Aaron Judge! As the top vote-getter in Phase 1 of this year’s All-Star Voting, Judge gets an automatic start in the Midsummer Classic, which will be held on July 19th at Dodger Stadium. Judge, with 3,762,498 votes, surpassed the second highest vote-getter, Atlanta’s Ronald Acuña Jr, by 259,310 votes.

Future Mega-Millionaire Aaron Judge

Hal Steinbrenner must be feeling the continued squeeze on his wallet.  While I think Judge should remain a Yankee for life, I am, admittedly, concerned that an impulsive owner will throw excessive sums of money at the California native and impending free agent. As much as I am looking forward to October, I am not ready for the days following the World Series. It will not be fun when Judge is visiting other teams and getting their sales pitches. Hopefully, the road leads back to Yankee Stadium. For now, we can enjoy the terrific season Judge is enjoying and we will watch his heroics in Chavez Ravine in a couple of weeks. A Judge-led World Series championship would be the ultimate prize.

Jose Trevino and Giancarlo Stanton are All-Star Ballot finalists, and they will enter Phase 2 of the voting process. I am so excited for Trevino. Starting the year, he was a backup catcher for the Texas Rangers, a team that gave him a vote of (no) confidence by acquiring starting catcher Mitch Garver from the Minnesota Twins. Ben Rohrvedt’s injury gave him an opportunity in New York, and he has thrived with his new team. With superior framing skills and the occasional damage with the bat, he has been the perfect antidote for the team that once featured Gary Sanchez as its starting catcher. Not trying to diss on Sanchez because I thought he did work hard (and wanted him to succeed as a Yankee), but Trevino is a much better fit for the team.

Once the All-Star pitching selections have been made, there should be a large Yankees group making the trip to sunny Southern CA. No doubt Orange County, CA native Gerrit Cole will be making the trip home, accompanied by his Closer, Clayton Walter Holmes. I could be mistaken but I have heard that guys named Clayton tend to do well at Dodger Stadium.

Shortstop of the Present? While I think Isiah Kiner-Falefa has been fine as the stopgap shortstop for the Yankees, the approaching second half of the season brings us closer to Peraza-Time. I would love to see what Peraza could do with some regular playing time at the big-league level. At worst, he would be IKF, but it is the upside that is tantalizing for me. He can improve the team and he is nearly ready to try.

Oswald Peraza / Photo Credit: Mike Carlson, MLB Photos via Getty Images

Shout-out to Brad Johnson 2 of MLB Trade Rumors for this piece yesterday:

Oswald Peraza, 22, SS, NYY (AAA)

249 PA, 9 HR, 16 SB, .240/.309/.404

There’s a certain tyranny to developmental expectations these days. Peraza razed High-A in 2021 then performed well-enough in Double-A to earn a brief call-up to Triple-A. The Yankees returned him to Triple-A at the start of this season, but it might have been more appropriate to continue his development in Double-A. His plate approach could use refinement. He appears to have the raw tools and judgment to be disciplined but instead errs on the side of aggression. His swing is balanced and covers the zone well, especially low-to-high. I perceive some potential for big league pitchers to successfully nibble the outer edge against him, but that’s just me editorializing. I haven’t seen that mentioned in any scouting reports.

Peraza has a high-floor approach as a defensively capable shortstop with sufficient contact skills to keep his head above water. He’s also on the 40-man roster and might be the only plausible option to fill in if Gleyber Torres or Isiah Kiner-Falefa ever need an extended absence.

If there are flaws that big league pitchers can expose, I am confident Peraza will learn to adjust. He is a talented player who could call ‘Yankees shortstop’ his job for an extended run. I am ready for the Peraza experiment…along with an outfield replacement for Joey Gallo.

Have a happy and safe 4th of July weekend…

As always, Go Yankees!

Late June, Last of the Teen Losses…

Giancarlo Stanton / Photo Credit: EPA

Next loss is almost Legal Drinking Age…

Sadly, there was no ‘rally in their bones’ last night as the Yankees fell to the Houston Astros, 3-1. The loss dropped the Yankees to 52-19, still the best record in Major League Baseball. Every other team in the AL East won yesterday but the Yankees lead over the second-place Toronto Blue Jays is eleven ½ games so there is room in the waistband. I certainly did not expect the Yankees to sweep the Astros this series, as much as I would have liked them to. The Astros are clearly the best team in the American League that the Yankees will face this year. Depending upon how the final standings align, Yankees-Astros could be a preview of the American League Championship Series in October. So, reaping the soul of the Astros in October is far more important than a four-game set in late June.

I am hoping for at least a split of the four-game series although three of four would be quite beautiful. Gerrit Cole and Nasty Nestor Cortes Jr provide reason for optimism. Well, that is true of any of the Yankee starters this year, but now, the ageless dick, Justin Verlander, is out of the series having pitched last night.

Gerrit Cole / Photo Credit: AP

Keeping Aaron Judge a happy man is a good thing. I was glad the Yankees and Judge were able to avert yesterday’s arbitration hearing. While it was thought the hearing was originally scheduled for Wednesday and subsequently pushed to Friday, Mike Axisa wrote in his blog yesterday that the hearing was always scheduled for Friday. Regardless, I was fearful of the negative feelings that can be generated from an arbitration hearing when the team’s primary goal is to prove why the player is not good enough for their salary demand. I think Judge is such a professional, he would not have let it alter his strong emotional attachment to the 2022 Yankees, but it is better that we never find out how the bond would have been tested.

Aaron Judge

The Judge camp had asked for $21 million, while the Yankees countered with $17 million. Initially, there were reports yesterday morning that Judge had rejected the Yankees’ meet-in-the-middle counteroffer of $19 million. The tragic part of this is Judge is worth every penny of the $21 million he is asking for, but that is not how this game is played. Fortunately, it was not long before word came that Judge had accepted the Yankees’ revised offer, $19 million plus $250,000 for AL MVP and $250,000 for World Series MVP (both incentives strongly possible if Judge keeps playing at his current level). The best $19.5 million the Yankees will spend this year.

It was not fun reading Buster Olney’s words yesterday predicting that Aaron Judge will not be a Yankee in 2023. Under the premise of ‘all it takes is one inspired owner,’ he thinks the Yankees will be outbid in their clinical approach when Judge reaches free agency after the season. No doubt, if the Yankees let Judge walk, it will be one of the greatest travesties of the organization in my life as a Yankee fan. It was difficult to see Robinson Cano leave, and while I am not trying to discredit Cano, his loss was not a blip on the radar compared to how wrong it would be for Judge to pull on another jersey. I am hopeful that resigning Judge is as important to Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner as it was to snag Gerrit Cole a couple of years ago.

Sign Judge to a huge deal that makes sense for both sides and make him the next Captain of the New York Yankees. I hope this is the prime objective once we reach the off-season.

The disappointment of Reggie Jackson. I do not know the circumstances that caused Reggie Jackson to leave his role as a consultant for the Yankees to join the Houston Astros organization a few years ago (not sure that I really care), but it sucked to see Jackson show up at Yankee Stadium wearing an Astros cap this week. Compare Jackson to Yankees Hall of Famer Derek Jeter. When Jeter was CEO of the Miami Marlins, you did not see him show up at Yankee Stadium wearing a Marlins cap when his Marlins visited the Bronx. Jeter is respectful of his Yankees legacy, whereas Jackson proves once again, it is all about him. It always was, why should he change who he is now. Good riddance.

Reginald Martinez Jackson / Photo Credit: Twitter via @mroctober

Welcome back, Albert Abreu. Abreu, along with minor league LHP Robby Ahlstrom, helped to bring popular Yankees catcher Jose Trevino from the Texas Rangers to New York this past Spring. Abreu’s time in Texas was short. He was designated for assignment at the end of May and traded to the Kansas City Royals on June 3rd for a minor league prospect. Abreu’s control problems led to a very brief stay in the Royals organization. He was designated for assignment a few weeks later and claimed on waivers by the Yankees on June 21st.

Albert Abreu

I always liked Abreu and there was a time he was one of my favorite prospects. The Yankees had originally acquired him in the November 2016 deal that sent catcher Brian McCann to the Houston Cheaters. Now 26 years old, Abreu is no longer a prospect. I think if the Yankees thought they could fix his control challenges, it would have happened already. I view Abreu as a placeholder. His time on the 40-man roster, unless he suddenly becomes a revered part of the bullpen (unlikely), will be almost as short as his Royals career. When it comes time to add Aroldis Chapman, Jonathan Loaisiga, Domingo German, and later, Zack Britton, there will be no room for Abreu.

Many fans were upset when Clarke Schmidt was demoted to Triple A to make room for Abreu on the active roster. I am not sure that I ever saw the two moves related to one another other than Schmidt’s temporary trip to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is an opportunity to get him more work and more specifically, starting work. The pitching staff knows Abreu and he afforded the Yankees an opportunity to help strengthen Schmidt for the long haul of the season. The Yankees’ starting rotation has been wonderful this season, but injuries are part of the game. Schmidt and JP Sears represent the rotation depth. I like the job Sears did earlier this season, but between the two men, I would rather have Schmidt in the rotation if something were to happen to one of the fabulous five currently in the Yankees rotation.

Clarke Schmdit / Photo Credit: Bebeto Matthews, AP

So, fans should not fret about Schmidt. He will be back, and he will play a part in the road to the World Series. His trip to Eastern Pennsylvania will only make him stronger. I am all for it. When champagne is dripping on the clubhouse floor, Schmidt will be getting alcohol stains on his jersey while Abreu will be home watching the World Series on television. For the record, I would love to see Abreu succeed, suddenly overcoming his flaws, but I am not optimistic.

To make room for Abreu, the Yankees traded reliever David McKay back to the Tampa Bay Rays. Watch McKay go from nothing special to a trusted high leverage reliever. That is how it usually works for the Rays. Seriously, it was no loss. The same as it will be when Abreu’s jersey is taken from him by Yankees clubhouse personnel. Life in baseball. It is necessary to have some Gypsy blood, knowing that travel is not limited to games but to different teams when you are not quite as talented as a guy like Aaron Judge.

As always, Go Yankees!

The Best Team in Baseball…

Photo Credit: Getty Images

The Yankees Bandwagon is starting to get full…

Let’s party like it is 1998. It is a little early to compare this Yankees team to one of the greatest Yankees teams in the history of baseball but the ride, at least through today, has been one helluva jaunt. It boggles the mind that the Yankees have a ten-game lead in the American League East, a division that is expected to have four playoff participants, and we have not yet reached the All-Star break. The Toronto Blue Jays, the team with the strongest young talent in the division, have the potential to make it a race. I would certainly not discount their ability to go on an extended winning streak, but it sure feels better when your team is up, and not behind, by ten full games.

Admittedly, I was a little concerned when the Yankees began a thirteen-game streak against the Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays, and Houston Astros. But three games in, the Yankees are 3-0 after sweeping the Rays at Yankee Stadium. The naysayers are quick to say the Yankees are only beating the bad teams and it appears the Rays are not as strong as they have been in recent years, but there are no pushovers in the AL East. Even the Baltimore Orioles are a better team than they once were and would have a better record if they resided in another division.

The Yankees face a stronger challenge starting tonight in Toronto. The goal, as always, is to win the series, but as the only team yet to lose twenty games, I am not going to fret if it does not happen. If the Yankees do win the Blue Jays series, it will be a very loud statement that their stranglehold on the AL East will not be relinquished anytime soon.

Last night’s game was beautiful. Surprisingly, a pitcher’s duel after Luis Severino was temporarily placed on the COVID List and the Rays’ scheduled starter, Drew Rasmussen, was placed on the Injured List. Clarke Schmidt was called upon to open the game in place of Sevy, and despite some two-out jams, he emerged unscathed with three scoreless innings, holding the Rays to one hit, and striking out five. Before the game, I thought JP Sears would be a better option, but I did not check when he last pitched and of course Schmidt was already with the team. Wonderful job by Schmidt, and he certainly rewarded Aaron Boone’s faith in him.

Ryan Weber, we hardly knew ye. Called up to replace Sevy on the active roster, Weber replaced Schmidt and although he yielded a fifth inning solo homer to Francisco Mejia, he gave the Yankees some length with 3 2/3 innings pitched, holding the Rays to only the one run. Despite the heroics, Weber’s Yankees career may be over before it really started. He was designated for assignment after the game when Severino tested negative for COVID and was feeling better than he had the night before, causing the Yankees to reinstate him to the active roster. Sevy has been cleared to travel to Toronto with the team. For Weber, there is always the chance he clears waivers and is sent outright to Scranton Wilkes-Barre if he does not elect free agency. But if he does not stay in the organization, the Yankees have a plethora of young arms waiting for their opportunities. So, thank you, Ryan, for the contribution to thrilling 2022 Yankees ride. We will be sure to send you the DVD.

Ryan Weber / Photo Credit: @Yankees

From there, relievers Ron Marinaccio and Michael King held the Rays in check to push the tied ballgame to the bottom of the ninth. With Aaron Judge, Anthony Rizzo, and Giancarlo Stanton scheduled to face Rays reliever Shawn Armstrong, it felt like magic was about to happen. I was a little disappointed when leading AL MVP candidate Aaron Judge flied out to right, but Anthony Rizzo quickly erased the disappointment with a thrilling walk-off home run to right center. Honestly, going into this series, I thought the Yankees would win no more than two of the three games. In years past, it has always seemed like a struggle to beat the Rays, but clearly, this Yankees team is different.

AL EASTWINSLOSSESPERCENTAGEGAMES BACK
Yankees4716.746
Blue Jays3726.58710.0
Rays3528.55612.0
Red Sox3430.53113.5
Orioles2837.43120.0

I am looking forward to watching how the next ninety-nine games play out. May one of the most exciting and thrilling seasons in recent memory continue. Love these Yankees!

Anthony Rizzo / Photo Credit: Bebeto Matthews, AP

Yankees, please keep Aaron Judge happy. Next week, Aaron Judge’s arbitration case is scheduled to be heard on Wednesday. The Yankees offered $17 million while Judge asked for $21 million. Here is hoping the two sides reach a compromise before the hearing. I dislike the nature of arbitration cases that force the MLB teams to find the faults of the players, airing them to the other side, to justify their lower offers. Nothing like sitting in a room for hours being told how much you suck. No question Judge is worth $21 million. Regardless of what happens, the Yankees need to ensure that Judge is taken care of, positively, peacefully…and financially.

Aaron Judge is the face of the New York Yankees, and he should remain a Yankee for life. The last point may not be decided until after the end of the season but if he leaves in free agency, it would be the single biggest loss of a Yankees player, in his prime, that I can remember. There have been players I have been saddened to see leave but nothing of this magnitude. Judge deserves to be paid and he deserves to be the next Captain of the Yankees.

North of the Border. The Yankees are in Ontario to face their strongest division rival in a three-game set. The pitching matchups are set: Jordan Montgomery versus former Dodgers starter Ross Stripling tonight. Jameson Taillon versus the talented young Alek Manoah (8-1, 1.67 ERA, sixty-eight strikeouts) on Saturday, and Gerrit Cole against Yusei Kikuchi on Sunday. Here is hoping the Yankees starters bring their “A” games like they did in Minnesota. It should be a fun series. As I like to say, to be the best, you must beat the best. The Yankees seem to find new ways to win every night. Let the trend continue.

Lastly, I hate to be critical of the Yankees, but… Aaron Hicks is killing me. Every at-bat is so painful to watch. Even when he does (infrequently) connect, any positive feelings are quickly erased. There is a reason that Aaron Judge has essentially become the team’s starting centerfielder and Hicks needs to be replaced in left. I am ready and hope for his departure next month. I am tired of watching him step to the plate with men on base, only to walk back to the bench with his head down after recording another out. I guess we always need to find “that guy” we can complain about, and Hicks is that guy for me. I am also not looking forward to the return of closer Aroldis Chapman. He was once a great closer, no question, but age regression happens to the best of us. I have genuinely enjoyed the lack of stress in the back end of games with Clay Holmes. No doubt when Aroldis Chapman is standing on the mound in the ninth inning sweating profusely, I will be sweating profusely in my living room. Chapman can still be dominant at times, and I hope the rest has been good for him. Regardless of how Aaron Boone decides to use him, I hope Chapman can excel and play a key role in the team’s success.

As always, Go Yankees!

The Winning Ways…

Trevi for the Win! / Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

Yankees Juggernaut continues to steamroll the AL…

Well, it was not a kind week for the elite Yankees starting rotation, but the team continues to find ways to win. After last year’s roller coaster season, it is so wonderful to have a team that competes hard every night (Wednesday night’s 8-1 clunker against the Twins excluded). No question this team has the “it” quality and this might be the most joyous season since the historic 1998 championship run. Not saying the team is going to win 114 (or 125) games but the 2022 Yankees can write their own script. To slightly change Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio’s famed quote, “I want to thank the Good Lord for making me a Yankee fan.”

The Captain

The Yankees are currently 42-16, .724 winning percentage, and lead the AL East by 7 ½ games. They have the best record in baseball and the only team that can join the Yankees with forty wins today is the crosstown Mets.

The Yankees faced a major challenge this week when they traveled to Minneapolis, Minnesota to face the recharged Minnesota Twins. After off-season retooling following a season of disappointment, the Twins currently hold first place in the AL Central and will most likely be a team in the October hunt. For the Yankees, it was a warm reunion with former Yanks Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela. Old friendships aside, the Twins were not so hospitable with the Yankee starters. Jameson Taillon gave up nine hits and four runs over four innings on Tuesday night; Nasty Nestor Cortes Jr, the All Star to-be, went 4 1/3 innings, allowed seven hits and four runs, taking the loss in Wednesday night’s disaster; and Gerrit Cole, who gave up three consecutive home runs before recording on out on Thursday night, was the worst, giving up eight hits and seven runs in only 2 1/3 innings. The five home runs he surrendered was a career worst. If a starter deserved to take a loss among these three, it was Cole. Fortunately for him, the Yankees bullpen and the hitters bailed him out as the Yankees clawed back from a four-run deficit to win, 10-7.

Despite the inflation of ERAs among the three starters, the trip to Target Field was successful as the Yankees took two of three. Win every series and life is good. I know the Yankees have owned the Twins for the past twenty years but one of these days the law of averages will turn the tables on the Yankees. I am glad it was not this week and I hope it is not this year.

Aaron Judge / Photo Credit: Jim Mone, AP

Last night, Luis Severino brought order back to the rotation. He struck out ten, yielding only seven hits and limiting the Chicago Cubs to one run in six innings. The game was tied when he left so no decision, but his performance was invaluable, and it set the stage for later team heroics. It took thirteen innings, but the Yankees emerged victorious when Jose Trevino came off the bench, on his son’s fourth birthday, for a run-scoring single in the walk-off 2-1 win over Anthony Rizzo’s old club. There were some brilliant defensive plays along the way that kept the game tied so it was a tremendous all-around team win.

Aarons Judge and Hicks / Photo Credit: Robert Sabo, NY Post

I felt bad for Aaron Judge. He had several key spots taken from him with intentional walks. Sure, walking him was the right thing to do for the opposing manager (former Red Suck David Ross), but as a fan, it was still slightly disappointing to miss a potential “Judgian” moment for arguably the American League’s most valuable player.

Despite the home run on Thursday night, Aaron Hicks at-bats are painful to watch. He may be great defensively behind the plate, but you can put Kyle Higashioka in the same category. I was ready for Manager Aaron Boone to pull Higgy in the ninth inning (to bring in Jose Trevino) when he led off the bottom of the frame. A line out to center only reinforced my opinion that it was a missed opportunity for Boonie.

Clearly the Yankees must do something about Hicks or Joey Gallo. Gallo is starting to hit a little better which probably places the spotlight on Hicks. With Aaron Judge taking most of the starts in center, it seems like the clock is ticking on Hicks and it is only a matter of time until he is just another ex-Yank. Time will tell. I guess we will know if his continued Yankee career is to be or not to be by the anniversary of Thurman Munson’s death.

There was irony before last night’s game when the Chicago Cubs announced they had designated Clint Frazier for assignment. Kind of funny since he had been given a locker in the visitor’s clubhouse, complete with his Cubs jersey. Perhaps Frazier clears waivers and is sent outright to the Iowa Cubs. Or maybe the Cubs should just send him back to Cleveland to see if he can restart his career. I did not really appreciate the ‘cookie cutter’ comments Frazier made this week about the Yankees organization, but it seems that Karma took care of it. 

Clint Frazier, The DFA Man / Photo Credit: AP

The Cubs also announced that another softie, Marcus Stroman, had been placed on the IL so he will miss the return to New York. I am proud to be one of those on Twitter who have been blocked by Stroman. He took offense when I once said that I wanted no part of him on the Yankees. My opinion has not changed.

Former Yankees joining the managerial ranks. The past week saw one former Yankee player and manager fired in Philadelphia (Joe Girardi), but it resulted in the promotion of long-time Yankees coach and recent Phillies bench coach Rob Thomson to serve as Girardi’s interim replacement. Out in Anaheim, CA, or about ten miles from where I am writing this post, Joe Maddon could not survive an extended Angels losing streak after a hot start to the season and was ousted. Former Yankees and current Angels third base coach Phil Nevin will serve as the interim Halos manager. Congratulations to both men. I doubt Nevin manages the team beyond this year, but I am hopeful Thomson wins the audition for permanency as the Phillies manager. You can certainly say that he has paid his dues for this opportunity.

Phillies Manager Rob Thomson / Photo Credit: MLB.com

Bullpen returns. Bryan Hoch reported that Aroldis Chapman is pain free and is scheduled to throw a bullpen today. He will need at least another bullpen session before the team considers activating him or sending him to the minors for rehab. With all honesty, I do not see how Chapman can be reinstated as the Yankees closer. To me, Clay Holmes is the man until he is not. The way he is pitching right now slams the door most nights. The Yankees cannot disrupt a good thing. I know that the end of games has been less painful for me. I am not yearning to see a sweaty pitcher on the mound in the ninth with a loss of control and reduced velocity.

Hoch also reported that Jonathan Loaisiga left the team to deal with a family matter in Nicaragua on June 7th. Hopefully, all is well for him and his family. It is unclear if he has resumed throwing, but his return seems further away than Chapman.

Zack Britton stays on track for return as early as August. He will be a welcome addition. He is currently doing bullpen work and will go on a minor league rehab assignment sometime in the coming weeks. I wish him the best for a full recovery and successful rehab. Same for Chapman and Loaisiga.

Zack Britton / Photo Credit: CBS Sports

Despite the relievers that will be rejoining the team in the coming weeks and months, I hope GM Brian Cashman can make another one of those sneaky good Clay Holmes type of trades to bring an unheralded reliever oozing with talent ripe for blossoming to New York.

As always, Go Yankees!

Twin Near Perfecto’s…

Gerrit Cole / Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

Taillon and Cole take perfection to late innings…

David Wells and David Cone once threw perfect games in back-to-back seasons. Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole nearly did it in back-to-back games although both fell in the later innings of their respective runs for perfection.

Thursday, Jameson Taillon was perfect until Los Angeles Angels first baseman Jared Walsh lined a hard shot that bounced off shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s glove for a double in the eighth inning. The game had been scoreless up to that point. Angels’ catcher Kurt Suzuki followed with a single that gave the Angels a 1-0 lead. Fortunately, Taillon held the damage there. Potentially facing the loss despite giving up only two hits and a run, Taillon was bailed when Anthony Rizzo hit a two-run single which put the Yankees ahead by a run in the bottom of the eighth. Clay Holmes made it interesting in the ninth, in Aroldis Chapman fashion, by walking Shohei Ohtani, one out away from victory, and then hitting two consecutive batters, Mike Trout and Jared Walsh, to load the bases. Fortunately, Luis Rengifo grounded out to Isiah Kiner-Falefa to end the game, giving Taillon the win and Holmes the save.

Jameson Taillon / Photo Credit: Robert Sabo, NY Post

Taillon, much like the entire Yankees rotation, has been brilliant this year. Through ten games started, he is 6-1 with a 2.30 ERA. In 58 2/3 innings, he has only given up fifteen runs on forty-eight hits and has struck out forty-four batters while walking only five. His fWAR is currently 1.6. Taillon, 30, will be a free agent at the end of the year. I have not heard any extension talks, but I hope the Yankees bring him back. He has always had excellent potential. It was only the injuries that held him back. I am glad he is a Yankee and I hope he stays beyond this season.

Friday night, Gerrit Cole took his run at perfection. Unlike Taillon, Cole had no problem receiving run support. With two outs in the seventh inning, Detroit’s Jonathan Schoop hit a grounder up the middle which made it past a diving DJ LeMahieu, spoiling Cole’s gem. At that point, the Yankees were ahead of the Tigers, 12-0, so Cole did not have to sweat it out like Taillon did the day before. Manuel Banuelos made his long-awaited appearance for the Yankees in relief, preserving the shutout by holding the Tigers to only one more hit over the final two innings.

Obviously, Cole is expected to be the staff ace. Expectations are high for a man carrying a $324 million contract. After his freezing weather struggles earlier in the season, I would say he is warming up as the weather does. Cole has started eleven games and is 5-1 with 2.78 ERA. He has given up twenty runs on forty-seven hits and fifteen walks over 64 2/3 innings. He has struck out 81 batters and currently carries a 1.9 fWAR.

It was reported that Taillon and Cole are the first teammates to have perfect games through six innings in back-to-back games since the Expansion Era began in 1961. I kept thinking that David Wells probably got drunk the night before his perfect game in 1998. Maybe Taillon and Cole should have gone on a bender this week.

I honestly cannot remember the last time the Yankees were this strong from one to five in the starting rotation. The success of Nasty Nestor Cortes, Jr has eliminated the fanbase’s pleas for starting pitchers like the Reds’ Luis Castillo or A’s Frankie Montas. The guy who entered the season as a fifth starter, with a shaky hold, to highly probable selection for next month’s All-Star team. It has been an incredible success story.

Nasty Nestor Cortes Jr / Photo Credit: MLB.com

I know it is still early. The Yankees have only played fifty-two games which means there are still 110 games to go, but at 37-15, this has felt like a magical season thus far. Please keep it going. I literally have not enjoyed a Yankees season as much as this since 1998. No pressure, guys.

Aaron Judge’s campaign for excessively massive contract extension is going well. He hit his 20th home run of the young season last night and has driven in forty-two runs. His batting line is .316/.384/.679, with .446 wOBA and 201 wRC+. His fWAR is currently 3.2. Pay the man and name him the new Yankees Captain.

Aaron “Future Billionaire” Judge / Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

Hopefully the two sides can come together on a new contract. I know the public stance is contract extension talks are on hold until after the season, but I would really like to see the Yankees sign him before he gets the opportunity to visit other organizations, particularly those in his home state of California like the San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Angels, or San Diego Padres. I would never count out the Los Angeles Dodgers from entering the chase even if they have an exceptionally good right fielder in Mookie Betts. It would be fantastic to hear news over the All-Star break that the two sides have agreed on a new deal. That would be truly special in an incredibly special year.

Joey Gallo or Aaron Hicks must go. As much as I want to, I will not say that the Yankees must get rid of both Gallo and Hicks, but they do need to eliminate at least one. Both have been dreadful, and I cringe every time I see both in the same lineup and especially when they are consecutive at-bats. Hicks finally got a big hit last night, scoring Isiah Kiner-Falefa, but he soured the moment by getting thrown out at second. Sure, Judge got thrown out similarly later in the game, but with Hicks, it is always something negative. It was hard to get excited about his RBI because it came with a 4-0 lead, and he has failed so miserably in situations when the games are on the line.

I think the Yankees can afford to keep one of the guys around but not both. The writing is on the wall for Hicks. Aaron Judge has played center field for 146 innings so far this season. He is only twelve innings behind his CF total for last year. As much as I would prefer to see Judge in right, I am always relieved when I see Judge’s name in center over Hicks.

I like Joey Gallo and I hate that his transition to New York has not been successful. You can say it should have been evident given his reputation as a high strikeout, low average guy (as they keep saying over and over, a true three-outcome hitter). I was hoping the on-base percentage and his defensive skills would shine through, but it has been too painful to watch. Before Anthony Rizzo came through with the huge bases loaded two-run single to rescue Taillon’s near-perfecto, Gallo struck out immediately preceding Rizzo. It could have been a brilliant moment for him, but instead, it was just another strikeout. So far, this season, he has struck out in 37.6% of his at-bats. His OBP (.282) is the lowest it has been since he was a 22-year-old kid trying to make the Texas Rangers roster in 2016. Gallo is a guy who would thrive in a less pressurized environment (like Kansas City, while thinking about what Andrew Benintendi, and his .399 OBP and 14.4% K ratio, would look like in pinstripes).

Andrew Benintendi

We are probably a month away from any potential deals, but hopefully the clock is ticking for Hicks and Gallo. While the Yankees seek perfection, the sources of imperfection must be purged.

Yankees acquire former AL East outfielder. Okay, it was a low-level trade for a guy headed to Triple A, but I remember when Jake Bauers was a promising, up-and-coming outfielder for the rival Tampa Bay Rays. Originally drafted by the San Diego Padres, he made his Major League debut for the Rays in 2018 and had a walk-off home run off Chasen Shreve to beat the Yankees that year. It felt like he was going to be one of those annoying Rays thorns in our sides, but his career has never managed to take off. He was traded to the Cleveland Indians after the 2018 season in a deal that brought Yandy Diaz to the Rays. The Indians (sorry, the Guardians) traded Bauers to Seattle last summer and he signed a minor league free agent deal with the Cincinnati Reds last December during the lockout. The Reds dealt him to the Yankees yesterday for cash, ala the Gio Urshela trade a few years ago.

Jake Bauers / Photo Credit: Sam Wasson, Getty Iamges

Bauers, who was once a highly regarded prospect, makes Joey Gallo and Aaron Hicks look like hit machines. Who knows if the Yankees can find anything in him? More than likely, he will be a failed project that will move on to his next organization if not out of baseball. But if the Yankees’ advanced hitting instruction in the organization can turn Bauers around to be something useful, it will be an incredible accomplishment for them. A left-handed bat is always nice, and Bauers is only twenty-six. I have extremely low expectations for him but do hope he can miraculously find success.

Joe must go. Joe Girardi’s time as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies has ended. The former Yankees manager was fired yesterday by GM Dave Dombrowski, the man most responsible for the team’s struggles in 2022. I feel bad for Joe, but certainly not enough to pine for his return to the Yankees. Been there, done that. I would not mind seeing Girardi get a gig with the YES Network, but it seems more probable that he would go back to the MLB Network to await his next managerial opportunity if he gets one.

“Binder Joe” Girardi

It must be hard for Girardi to see the Yankees having success after the dramatic overhaul of their hitting and pitching instruction and philosophy, while the Phillies threw millions at flawed free agent defensively challenged hitters last off-season and failed to provide legitimate support for Bryce Harper. While you can argue that Girardi is a better manager than Aaron Boone, Boone has been the beneficiary of new and improved vision from the Yankees front office. I have no wish to see Boone ousted unless he woefully underperforms and is out managed in October. Even then, Girardi would not be my first choice for a possible replacement. Yet, I hope Girardi finds a team that looks for his leadership. In the right spot, he can find the October gold again.

As always, Go Yankees!

Baseball’s Best Team Rolls On…

Miguel Andujar & Gleyber Torres / Photo Credit: Julio Aguilar, Getty Images

33 Wins in 46 Games, 6 ½ Game Lead…

It has been quite a week…where do we start?

For starters, the Yankees have a plethora of brilliant ones. Nestor Cortes, Jr has been a godsend, and arguably the best pitcher in the rotation. In the first two games Thursday and Friday against the Rays at the warehouse called Tropicana Field in St Petersburg, Florida, Cortes, and Jameson Taillon each went eight strong innings against last year’s AL East champions, and the only run scored was a runner Cortes left when he tried, unsuccessfully, to pitch into the ninth inning. Both men struck out five Rays. There is no doubt in my mind that these are games the Yankees would have lost last year. It is a testament to the strength and cohesiveness of the 2022 New York Yankees.

When the Yankees win, it is friggin’ FANTASTIC! When they lose, it is the end of the World. Last year’s team gave us too many runs through the valleys. This year, onward and upward! Life is good.

I preface this by saying I wish injury upon no one. However, I am relieved that Aroldis Chapman has been removed, albeit temporarily, from his closer’s role with his placement on the injury list due to Achilles tendinitis. It has allowed the best reliever in the Yankees bullpen, Clay Holmes, to ascend to the throne. I do not know about you, but my confidence at the end of games has improved significantly.

Clay “The Closer” Holmes / Photo Credit: Getty Images

Holmes has pitched in twenty-three games this season, a total of twenty-four and a half innings. He has only given up one run on fifteen hits and has only walked two batters. He is 4-0 and has accumulated six saves and has not blown a save opportunity. He has punched out twenty-six batters and his fWAR is 1.0. I do not need to tell anybody those stats are damn good. Aroldis Chapman is a free agent at the end of the year. The Yankees should not be concerned with Chapman’s ego. It is a foregone conclusion he will not be back. Chapman has pitched a little more than ten fewer innings than Holmes, yet he has walked ten batters to Clay’s two. He has given up thirteen hits, six runs, and two home runs…with three wild pitches. Holmes has not surrendered a home run and has only thrown one wild pitch. Give me ninth inning certainty, give me Clayton Walter Holmes.

As for Chapman, he should join the setup crew when he returns. Choose his spots. If he demands a trade, comply with his wishes. I do not expect Chapman to rediscover gold. He is 34. He was great in his younger days, and maybe he can find new pitches, but not on our dime. It is time to move on. I am more excited about the return of Zack Britton from the Injured List than I am with Chapman. Britton knows a thing or two about being the most dominant closer in the game but even he should not close over Holmes.

Give props where they are due. The Holmes trade, which sent infield prospect Diego Castillo and Hoy Park to the Pittsburgh Pirates last July, ranks as one of the greatest in the Brian Cashman era. I can still remember my first reaction to the trade. “Who?” Cashman’s brilliance won out the day and I am extremely grateful Clay Holmes is a Yankee. Too often in years past, unheralded Pirates would go to Tampa and flourish. Turnabout is fair play. You could put Jameson Taillon on the list of great trades, but he was recognized, when he was still a Pirate, as a potentially great pitcher. His only vice was health. Still, Cashman placed his faith in Gerrit Cole’s buddy, and it has paid off too. So, congratulations Cashman. I have been down on you often, but I recognize you built the 2022 Yankees. Although you chose a different recipe than the one, we, the fans, wanted, the results have far exceeded expectations. Thank you for bringing the fun back to the Bronx.

Josh Donaldson suspended, sick and then hurt. What a week NOT to be Josh Donaldson! For calling Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson ‘Jackie,’ Donald received a one-game suspension. I agree. Something had to be done even if one-game seems light. Although Manager Aaron Boone was supportive of Donaldson, strong words from Aaron Judge brought light to the extremely sensitive issue. Although my initial reaction was the invocation of Jackie’s name was not racist, I have been able to see this in a different light and understand how the word could be viewed as inflammatory regardless of what Anderson may have said in the past.

Donaldson and Anderson will never be best buddies. They did not have the type of relationship that allowed playful words to be exchanged with each other. My bigger concern now is if Donaldson has alienated himself from a few of his current teammates. To Donaldson’s defense, he did issue a public apology to Anderson and the family of Jackie Robinson. Unfortunately, an apology only goes so far. Donaldson is not going to change who he is.

Donaldson was placed on the COVID-19 list earlier in the week with symptoms of the virus and has since been placed on the Injured List for shoulder inflammation. Although I appreciate the job Donaldson has done this year, particularly with the glove and the ‘take no shit’ attitude he brings to the team, the time away is probably good. Team chemistry is particularly important to me. I have not been in the Yankees Clubhouse, but you can sense that there is something different and incredibly special about this year’s team. I do not want anything to disrupt it. Hopefully, Donaldson returns to the team with some degree of remorse and can repair any potentially damaged relationships.

Chad Green, I am sorry. It was announced that Green, like Luis Gil before him, will need Tommy John surgery. I have been down on Green, but this is not how I wanted it to end for him. Since he will be a free agent at the end of the year, I wonder if the Yankees will simply move on like they once did with Michael Pineda and Nate Eovaldi. It would be nice to see the Yankees bring him back on a back-loaded two-year contract to help him through the rehabilitation and eventual return (he is expected to be out twelve to eighteen months), but I understand how valuable spots on the forty-man roster can be. Do you protect Green this winter or a young prospect with Clay Holmes or Luis Severino potential? As much as I appreciated the great years Green brought to the Yankees bullpen, it is most likely time for it to end and I am terribly sorry. I hope Green can recover and eventually find the payday that will set him up for the rest of his life.

Chad Green / Photo Credit: AP

Welcome to the Yankees, Matt Carpenter! The longtime St Louis Cardinals infielder is now a Yankee. I get that he has seen his better days. He is thirty-six and has not been great since 2018. The Cardinals chose not to re-sign him last Fall, and he subsequently signed a minor league contract with the Texas Rangers. Last week, after failing to make the Rangers’ major league roster and stuck playing in Triple A, he asked for and received his release. There is hope off-season work he did to revamp his swing will pay dividends. He will never be the All-Star player he once was, but if he can help, great. Given the recent rash of injuries (Donaldson, Giancarlo Stanton, DJ LeMahieu, etc.), Carpenter has a chance to contribute. In his first two games with the Yankees, he has homered once (last night) and scored three runs. I have no idea what his future holds. When everybody is healthy, he seems to be the odd one out. Marwin Gonzalez has proven his value with his versatility and appears to be the more valuable of the two players. I guess we will just enjoy the ride and see where it takes us. Feel free to swing for the fences (or into the deep corners), Matt. Welcome!

Matt Carpenter / Photo Credit: AP

Welcome back to the Yankees, Manny Banuelos! Manny, after starting the year with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, has finally achieved his dream of making the Yankees roster. Sporting Dellin Betances’ old number (68), he has yet to appear in a game but hopefully he will get his turn. Like Carpenter, I do not know how long Manny’s pinstriped dream will last. It could be short. I hope he makes the most of his latest opportunity. It has been a long, hard road for him, and I will really enjoy it if he finally achieves success. We are far removed from the Killer B’s (Banuelos, Betances, and Andrew Brackman) and Manny no longer holds the promise he once did, but conversely, he has worked extremely hard to get here and has earned this shot.

The Yankees also brought back another former Yankee on a minor league deal when reliever Shane Greene was signed. Greene was traded to Detroit in the 2014 three-team trade that brought shortstop Didi Gregorius to the Yankees from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Greene developed into an All-Star reliever and saved thirty-two games for the Tigers in 2018. Greene was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers to a minor league deal in March and had been pitching for their Triple A club this year. He was called up to the Dodgers on May 15th, pitched two scoreless innings and was designated for assignment two days later when the Dodgers activated one-time Yankees punching bag David Price. Like with Banuelos, I would like to see Greene find success with his original team. Given the injuries in the bullpen, he may get his chance.

Thanks to JP Sears for his successful spot start this week. It was a quick trip from and back to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre but with family in attendance, Sears performed brilliantly on Wednesday, May 25th when he pitched five scoreless innings against the Baltimore Orioles and held them to three hits. It was the second victory of the year for Sears. No doubt we will see Sears again. It was tough losing Luis Gil for the year, but I am glad Sears is making the most of his opportunities. There is confidence with both Sears and Clarke Schmidt as rotation stand-ins.

JP Sears

Lastly but most importantly, my thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the victims of the horrific shootings in Uvalde, Texas. Every story of the children and two teachers lost are heartbreaking. I am not against guns, but clearly, this country can do so much better with gun control and safety. I get that it is impossible to keep guns out of the hands of professional, cold-blooded killers, but an eighteen-year-old kid should not be permitted to buy an assault-style weapon. I am disappointed that we, as a country, have not learned anything from the tragedies of Columbine, Sandy Hook and now Robb Elementary. Throw partisanship out the window, the solutions and remedies require full and unwavering bipartisan support. We must all come together to stop senseless violence and loss of life.

Photo Credit: Jae C Hong, AP

As always, Go Yankees!

The Unsinkable Josh Donaldson…

Yasmani Grandal & Josh Donaldson / Photo Credit: Sarah Stier, Getty Images

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but…

Suffice it to say that Tim Anderson will not be inviting Josh Donaldson over for Thanksgiving dinner in November. The bad blood between the two players this season boiled over yesterday after Donaldson called Anderson “Jackie.” The White Sox took the approach it was a racist comment. Donaldson, trying to defend himself, stated it was about Anderson’s 2019 Sports Illustrated story where the White Sox shortstop described himself as “today’s Jackie Robinson.”

The Athletic, via Twitter

I am a Yankees fan, so I am biased toward Donaldson, but I honestly do not believe he is a racist. When I first heard Donaldson’s rebuttal to the allegation, I could see how Donaldson might use Jackie’s name in mocking manner to imply that Anderson was no Jackie Robinson or, the way Donaldson described it, he was just being playful with the reference in jest to Anderson’s prior proclamation. Not saying that is right. I certainly would not have used those words, but Josh Donaldson is his own man. If there were any racial overtones with Donaldson’s words or actions, I strongly believe the Yankees clubhouse would call him out on it and take the necessary disciplinary action through their own means behind closed doors.

For the White Sox, it is easy for them to try to make this worse than it was. They have not been successful against the Yankees this year, and frustrations are rising. The White Sox, beneficiaries of current elite Major League talent derived from having one of the best farm systems in baseball from 2017 to 2020, were projected by many to reach the World Series this season. They are 19-20 entering play today and sit 4.5 games behind the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central. They are 2.5 games out in the Wild Card chase. So far this season, the teams have played five games and the White Sox have only one win to show for it. Over the last three years, the Yankees have won nine of eleven games against the White Sox. They conclude their regular season play today with a double-header, weather-permitting. If both teams make the playoffs, it is possible this feud will be reignited in October when tensions are even higher.

But setting aside my defense of Donaldson, I understand and accept those who say that how words affect the recipient is the key point which must not be lost. Regardless of what we may think, Tim Anderson took exception to Donaldson’s words. It is his right, and only he knows how deeply the words hurt. We cannot speak for Anderson. If Donaldson’s words did hurt Anderson, then MLB or more specifically the Yankees should take the appropriate action against Donaldson and sit him for a few.

One thing is for sure. Josh Donaldson will never back down from a fight. He brings an edge to the team, and whether we agree with his methods, he gives the team toughness it did not previously have. I truly hope in my heart there was no racial motivation or intent. 

More Clay Holmes, less Aroldis Chapman. Holmes, arguably one of the best relievers in baseball among non-closers is quickly becoming a much stronger ninth inning option than Chapman. Anytime Chapman enters a game, you can only hope the Yankees have put enough runs on the board to offset the runs the opponent will score off Chapman. A one-run lead? Give me Holmes over Chapman any day of the week. I know Chapman has not blown a save this year, but every outing feels like a tightrope walk with a few wobbles along the way.

Aroldis Chapman / Photo Credit: EPA

As it stands, Chapman has not pitched since last Tuesday. It is never a good thing when he does not pitch for long stretches. With two games on tap for today, it seems he will be used out of necessity. It may be the best opportunity for the White Sox to take at least one of the games. I have always liked Aroldis Chapman but my confidence in him has waned. I would have no problem if the Yankees moved Chapman at the trading deadline although I am not sure what they could get. Chapman will be a free agent at the end of the year. He is gone. There will be no further reunions.

Jonathan Loaisiga was my choice for closer-in-waiting at the start of the year, but Holmes has re-written the script. He seems likely to be the next closer, perhaps as early as this season. Move Chapman around in other innings, dependent upon the situations. It might reinvigorate Chapman to face other high leverage spots instead of exclusively the critical, tension-filled ninth inning as he transitions away from a once dominant fastball.

Chad Green placed on the Injured List. As frustrated as I was this year with Chad Green, this is not the way I wanted it to go. If the injury, right forearm discomfort, is serious and requires surgery, it is very probable that Green will not wear the Pinstripes again. He will be a free agent at the end of the year, and it was already unlikely the Yankees would extend him given his struggles for the last season and a half. It was great when Green was one of the most dominant relievers in the Yankees bullpen and rated as one of the best relievers in baseball. Sadly, he is no longer that guy. Age happens, and the life cycle of a dominant reliever, unless your name is Mariano Rivera, seems to be noticeably short. Whatever happens with Chad, I wish him the best. If he can get back out on the field this season, I hope that he is able to rediscover the magic. If not, I hope he finds success with his next team.

Chad Green / Photo Credit: Nick Wass, AP

RHP Ron Marinaccio was recalled from Triple A, taking Green’s spot on the roster.

Luis Gil meets Tommy John. Unfortunately, it is not an opportunity to meet the great former Dodgers/Yankees starting pitcher, but rather the misfortune to go under the knife. This, the Tommy John surgery, is not news that any Yankees fan wanted to hear. Gil was removed from a Triple A game on Wednesday against the Worcester Red Sox after turning to face the RailRiders dugout while pointing to his right elbow after throwing a pitch. It has been confirmed that Gil will require surgery. Gil had met with Yankees team physician Christopher Admad in New York City on Friday and presumably received other medical opinions.

Gil made only one start for the big-league club in 2022, when he pitched four innings on May 12th against the Chicago White Sox. He started, giving up four runs over four innings, and departed with a lead, but the White Sox later tied the game ultimately won by the Yankees, 15-7. Jonathan Loiasiga picked up the win in relief.

Recovery and rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery generally takes at least one year to eighteen months. It can take some athletes up to two years to reach their previous level of ability. It is going to be a long road ahead for Gil, and hopefully he is successful in his journey back to the Major Leagues in either late 2023 or early 2024.

It is a tough break for the Yankees since they lose a starting option. Presumably, Clarke Schmidt becomes the ‘go-to’ if the rotation needs assistance. It would be enticing to consider Michael King, but he has been so hugely valuable in the pen. The dominance of King and Clay Holmes has helped cover for other bullpen flaws.

Roderick Arias will be delayed. It was reported this week that the Yankees’ latest elite international free agent signing may be delayed this season. He ceased baseball activities two weeks ago for an undisclosed injury. Yankees international scouting director Donny Rowland described it as nothing major, just a tweak that is lingering. Hopefully, it is nothing significant, and Arias will be able to make his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League this season. The DSL is scheduled to begin play on June 6th.

The Yankees signed the 17-year-old Dominican shortstop in January for $4 million.

Minor League free agent signings. Over the last week and a half, the Yankees have signed three players to minor league contracts. On May 13th, they signed Danny Salazar, once a promising pitcher for Cleveland, who has not pitched in the Major Leagues since 2019. The right-hander is now thirty-two. Who knows if he will be successful in the Yankees organization but I wish him the best of luck in his journey to find his way back. Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake knows a thing or two about Salazar from their days in Cleveland, so perhaps the signing was based on his recommendation.

The Yankees also signed LHP Rafaelin Nivar and RHP Ryan Miller. There are no minor league stats for Nivar, and I was unable to locate any information on him. Miller, 26, is a former Arizona Diamondbacks prospect who was released in 2020. Miller was assigned to the Yankees High-A Affiliate, the Hudson Valley Renegades.

As always, Go Yankees!

The Rise of the Unicorns…

Giancarlo Stanton & Aaron Judge / Photo Credit: Nam Y. Huh, AP

Enjoying the Yankees Ride…

For a team that generally starts slowly, the 2022 New York Yankees are different. Of course, I mean it in the best conceivable way. Their 24-8 record through thirty-two games is the first time it has happened since the legendary 1998 championship season. They were matched by only three other teams in franchise history (1928, 1939, and 1958). World Series championships awaited those four teams. Time will tell if the 2022 team joins that achievement, but the season, thus far, has been a tremendously fun ride. Surprisingly, the famed 1927 Murderers’ Row Yankees who won 110 games in a 154-game schedule and swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series only had twenty-one wins after 32 games.

1928 Yankees, 101-53, Swept St Louis Cardinals in the World Series

1939 Yankees, 106-45, Swept Cincinnati Reds in the World Series

1958 Yankees, 92-62, Beat Milwaukee Braves in 7-game World Series

1998 Yankees, 114-48, Swept San Diego Padres in the World Series

It is way too early to talk about the World Series this year. Too many games between now and October. Yet, it is obvious that this team has an exceptional quality, and the team cohesiveness seems to be its strongest since the 2017 Baby Bombers made a deep October push that was thwarted by trash cans.

Leading the charge are Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. When both guys homered in last night’s 10-4 win over the Chicago White Sox, it improved the Yankees’ record to 5-0 in games when both giants go yard. Since Stanton joined the Yankees in 2018, the team is 21-1 in games when both men homer. Putting this season into further legendary status, Judge (12 home runs) and Stanton (10) are the first Yankees duo with double digit home runs after 32 games since Mickey Mantle (16) and Yogi Berra (12) in 1956. The only other time it happened was 1930 when Babe Ruth (14) and Lou Gehrig (10) achieved it. Standing among the Legends…

Stanton & Judge / Photo Credit: Si.com
Yogi Berra & Mickey Mantle / Photo Credit: AP
Lou Gehrig & Babe Ruth / Photo Credit: Kenan Research Center, Atlanta History Center

In speaking about what it must be like for opposing pitchers to face Judge and Stanton, Yankees ace Gerrit Cole, last night’s winner, offered, “It’s brutal. There’s a lot of power. There’s different types of hitters, and Judge and Stanton are obviously kind of unicorns.” His inner dialogue was probably, “I am fuckin’ glad that I don’t have to face them!”

According to Fangraphs, the Yankees lead Major League Baseball with 7.6 fWAR. The closest team is the Houston Astros at 7.0. Comparing the Yankees to their AL East Rivals (courtesy of Fangraphs), I would say it is a clear and distinct advantage Yankees.

TEAMWINSLOSSESGBAVGOBPSLGwOBAwRC+fWAR
Yankees248.246.325.430.3351257.6
Rays20134 ½.236.305.381.3061105.6
Jays17167 ½.236.299.384.304993.8
Orioles141910 ½.233.308.352.299972.9
Red Sox122012.231.287.346.283830.7

If the Yankees can get Josh Donaldson and Joey Gallo going (both men homered last night), the offense becomes even more formidable. I love watching away game crowds flood the exit gates early like we have seen the last two games at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago.

While I felt the Yankees had given Aaron Judge a fair contract offer prior to the season, there is no doubt Judge has let his play put the pressure on the Yankees to raise the ante.

This year’s trade deadline should be fun. Given how much last year’s moves helped the Yankees, it seems a few of the team’s current flaws could be eliminated with the right moves come July. Despite last night’s multi-hit performance and three-game hitting streak, Joey Gallo heads my list of regulars who could be dealt. A frequently rumored outfield target, Andrew Benintendi, defeated the Kansas City Royals in his arbitration case yesterday which increases the likelihood he will be moved. Benintendi, the former Red Sox outfielder, will make $8.5 million (or $1.2 million more than the Royals were offering). He will be a true rental since he will become a free agent following the season.

As Gallo, it is tough. I really like the guy. He plays good defense and has an enjoyable personality. The home runs, when they happen, are beautiful, and the walks are nice, but the strikeouts are too much. Through last night’s game, Gallo has a 37.5% strikeout ratio. It is pretty much his career norm (lifetime percentage is 36.9%) so the Yankees clearly knew what they were getting when they acquired him. Yet, this is his last year with the Yankees. Either they trade him in July or let him walk in the off-season when he reaches free agency. I cannot see an extension on the horizon for him. Gallo could potentially flourish in a less-pressurized environment so I would prefer to get something for him rather than nothing.

The Yankees should include Chad Green in any Gallo deal. I remember when I dreaded it when Chad Green would start a game. The switch to the bullpen was magical for a couple of seasons, but now I get the same dread I used to when Green enters a game in relief. No lead is safe. Zack Britton could possibly return in August, and there will be other guys available later this summer like Domingo German and Stephen Ridings. At some point, there will be no room for Green. He is another guy who could benefit from a change in scenery.

I am not ready to give up on Jonathan Loáisiga. He is too talented, and I am confident he will find his way back to his standout 2021 performance. If the Yankees can get him right, it will be the latest testament to the success of pitching coach Matt Blake and the new superior philosophies developed and implemented by organizational pitching leadership team. The Yankees most likely need a new closer in 2023. Earlier this year, I had thought the natural successor for free agent-to-be Aroldis Chapman would be Loáisiga. Right now, he does not seem to be a viable candidate, but he can change that perception. I hope he does.

Jonathan Loáisiga / Photo Credit: Si.com

Setback for Ben Rortvedt. I feel badly for the young Yankees catcher. When he was dealt to the Yankees with Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa for Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela, he seemed primed for a tremendous opportunity in Pinstripes. The oblique injury delayed his start and forced the Yankees to acquire elite framer Jose Trevino from the Texas Rangers, who has essentially become a Major League block for Rortvedt. Rortvedt finally got into two rehab games for the Single-A Tampa Tarpons, picking up two hits including a home run, but has been sidelined again, this time for a knee injury.

This is shaping up to be a lost year for Rortvedt. Hopefully, the knee issue is not serious, and he can get back to his rehab games soon. If he is healthy and ready, he would be the first call if/when the Yankees need catching help. I really want to see him get to that place so that he can be prepared for his opportunity when it arrives. Get well soon, Ben.

Ben Rortvedt / Photo Credit: Si.com

Robinson Canó finds a new team. When the New York Mets designated Canó for assignment and subsequently released him, it appeared to be the end of the road for the one-time Yank. No way I wanted the Yankees to consider reuniting with the 39-year-old infielder (they did not have the room for him anyway), but I am surprised that a first-place club, the San Diego Padres, rolled the dice. The Padres have been struggling with consistent offense despite sharing the NL West lead with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and they look to Canó for bench support and leadership. I hope it works out for him. This may be his last chance for another World Series championship. The Padres are hoping Canó can provide them what Albert Pujols gave the Dodgers last year.

Robinson Canó / Photo Credit: San Diego Padres

Canó will always be an ultimate ‘what if’ player for me. What if he had stayed with the Yankees and not traveled down the PED highway. What if he had kept up his numbers and performance through natural means. There is no doubt, in my mind, we would be talking about making room for him in Monument Park and pulling #24 out of circulation. I wish him the best in sunny San Diego as he attempts what might be his last opportunity in Major League Baseball.

As always, Go Yankees!

The King of the World…

Josh Donaldson, Anthony Rizzo and Michael King / Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, New York Post

Now pitching, Number 34, Michael King…

It is easy to point to Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo as Team MVPs after twenty-five games. Yet, the Yankees would not be 18-7 and sitting atop the AL East without the huge contributions of Michael McRae King.

Michael King / Photo Credit: Vincent Carchietta, USA TODAY Sports

The case can be made that he has been the Yankees’ most valuable pitcher (starter or reliever). As confidence in closer Aroldis Chapman has started to decline in recent seasons, King’s ability to go multiple innings with his vast array of pitches, shutting down powerful bats, has been tremendous. King, who turns twenty-seven later this month, has been dominant (ya think?). In 17 2/3 innings, he has struck out 39.7% of the batters he has faced, while walking only 4.8%. He is 2-0, with one save, and 0.51 ERA. His fWAR of 1.2 (according to FanGraphs) is the highest among relievers and tied for third among all pitchers with Arizona Diamondbacks starter Merrill Kelly. They trail only Toronto’s Kevin Gausman (1.9) and San Francisco’s Carlos Rodon (1.3).

Armed with four pitches (four-seam and two-seam fastballs, slider and change-up), King keeps batters flustered as they fail repeatedly. There has been much talk about his mastery of the breaking ball thanks to last year’s tutelage by former Yank Corey Kluber. It is unfair to give full credit to Kluber. I am sure that the Klubot has offered plenty of advice to other pitchers over the years, but credit to the student for taking the feedback and implementing the necessary changes to make the pitch above average in his arsenal which obviously enhances his other pitches.

I remember when Chad Green was a starter, and I felt that he would be more effective as a reliever. It played out to perfection as Green was an elite reliever for a few years although he has slipped in recent seasons. King is the reliever that I would love to see become a starter. Maybe not this year. I loved the 2009 dominance of Phil Hughes as a reliever until he later moved back into the starting rotation in subsequent seasons. King is the 2022 version of the elite reliever for a championship team. Hopefully, if any of the starters miss time, the first call for replacement will be Clarke Schmidt and not King. But for next year and beyond, Michael King should be in the starting rotation with his deadly weaponry.

King was primarily a starter in the minor leagues with fifty-nine starts in eighty games pitched. If Jameson Taillon is not re-signed this coming off-season (he should be), King needs to be the arm that is slotted as his replacement. I love Nasty Nestor Cortes, Jr, but I would prefer him as the long reliever and spot starter with King in the rotation. Not this year…I would not want to disrupt a good thing…but as a future thought.

King was born in Rochester, New York on May 25, 1995. He went to high school in Rhode Island and pitched collegiately for Boston College. He was taken in the 12th round (353rd selection) of the 2016 MLB Draft by the Miami Marlins. The Yankees acquired King from the Marlins after the 2017 season, along with international bonus money, for starting pitcher Caleb Smith and first baseman/outfielder Garrett Cooper. I have been down on GM Brian Cashman in recent years, but this rates as one of his best trades, regardless of the spotty success Smith and Cooper have had at the Major League level. It is why I do not blink an eye if Cashman trades a veteran for a young prospect (like he did this past Spring when first baseman Luke Voit, a man without a position, was shipped to San Diego for pitcher Justin Lange or when he sent 4A outfielder Jake Cave to Minnesota a few years ago for RHP Luis Gil). Give these types of moves the necessary time to marinate.

King’s mission is simple. Help bring a World Championship back to the Bronx. There is no doubt he is doing his part. It is up to the other twenty-three men on the roster (purposely excluding Judge and Rizzo for their stellar play) to match King’s level of play.

Tim Locastro has been a blessing. When the Yankees acquired Locastro on July 1st last summer from the Arizona Diamondbacks, the reason was simple. Speed. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL less than three weeks later and his 2021 season was ended. He was waived on November 5th and claimed by the Boston Red Sox. Fortunately, he was non-tendered by the Red Sox after Thanksgiving, and he signed with the Yankees as a free agent in March after the lockout had ended.

Locastro beat out Ender Inciarte to make the team out of Spring Training and has been an invaluable weapon in reserve. As they say, speed plays. I must admit that I had my doubts. The anterior cruciate ligament injury is serious, and I had concerns it would rob Locastro of his elite speed. Thankfully, Locastro has not slowed down and he is helping to have influence for this year’s club when his name is called upon.

Blue Jays C Tyler Heineman and Tim Locastro / Photo Credit: Christopher Katsarov, The Canadien Press via AP

Brian Cashman is smarter than us. Okay, to be fair, I probably have not changed my opinion that it is time for change in the Yankees organization. We cannot change the owner, but general managers have shelf life and Cashman has had a good run. His last championship was in 2009 and he has had his share of clunker moves. The Yankees have made significant strides by upgrading coaching throughout the organization (albeit maybe not at the managerial level). At some point, the Steinbrenner Family faces the decision of whether they can improve the general manager’s seat. With his contract expiring at season’s end, the time could be near. Of course, a World Series championship this Fall would bring the inevitable extension. But I digress. On to the point…

Brian Cashman makes his decisions with the longer-term in view. This past off-season saw the Yankees pass on the elite shortstops, the team’s most pressing need. We now know how well Isiah Kiner-Falefa has fit into the Yankees lineup and has proven to be a better fit than any of the big three elite free agents. I wanted Carlos Correa and yet he has gotten off to a slower start than IKF. He suffered a hand injury earlier this week that was first thought to be broken but has received better news within the past day. Once Correa was off the board, I wanted DJ LeMahieu’s former Colorado teammate, Trevor Story. I was disappointed when he signed with Boston. In retrospect, Story has been a big reason the Red Sox (10-17) currently languish in last place in the AL East, BEHIND the annual cellar-dwelling Baltimore Orioles.

Trevor Story / Photo Credit: Barry Chin, Boston Globe Staff

Story is batting .212/.292/.294 with .270 wOBA and 73 wRC+. He does not have any home runs and only ten RBIs. The other night, when he struck out four times, he immediately secluded himself in the batting cage with a couple of teammates to avoid the press. He stayed in the batting cage until after the clubhouse closed to the media. Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe said it best. “Trevor Story not making himself available to media after 4-Ks and getting booed at Fenway is a bad sign. Fans want new players to succeed. But ducking questions never cuts it here. He’s a veteran. He knows the drill. That’s a ducking move. He can take a few questions, then go off and hit all night.”

Story’s behavior would not play in New York either. Credit to guys like Giancarlo Stanton, who have taken more than their fair share of heat over the years, they are always ready and available to field questions after games. I am sure Story’s bat will come around but suffice it to say that I am glad Brian Cashman was right and I was wrong. Credit where credit is due.

Brian Cashman / Photo Credit: Adam Hunger, Getty Images

No Yankees baseball for the third day in a row. Today’s game, like yesterday, has been postponed due to rain. Friday’s game against the Texas Rangers was rescheduled for tomorrow with a single-admission double-header. Today’s game against the old buddies of Joey Gallo, Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Jose Trevino has been moved to Monday with 1:05 pm Eastern start time. Hopefully, the time off will not slow down the Yankees. I never get too excited about winning streaks because the Yankees have a habit of following up with a losing streak. Maybe the added rest days will help re-energize the team for another extended winning streak. The downside of the days off is that Aroldis Chapman is going to be horrendous in his next appearance since he never does well with too much time off.

Soggy Yankee Stadium / Photo Credit: AP

Here’s hoping for better New York weather tomorrow…

As always, Go Yankees! 

The Be(a)st of the AL East…

Anthony Rizzo & Aaron Judge / Photo Credit: USA SPORTS Today

Yankees roll into May with the division lead…

The World always seems to be a better place when the Yankees are winning. The current seven-game winning streak has Yankees fans feeling joyful and optimistic. Of course, it will end with the next two-game losing streak, but it is quite enjoyable for now. When they are losing, there is no one that hates the Yankees worse than Yankees fans, so it is nice to see happy Bronx Bomber fans while it lasts.

In all seriousness, this team is special. Remembering the fun of the 2017 Yankees, there was a huge sense of team camaraderie with the Baby Bombers. They took us deep into October and potentially, if not for the banging of trash cans, might have won a World Series championship. Since then, there has been something missing with each subsequent team (no…I am not referring to Joe Girardi). I am not trying to sell those other teams short, but there is an intangible “it” factor that has been missing.

Aaron Judge, Anthony Rizzo & Giancarlo Stanton / Photo Credit: Instagram

The Yankees’ front office finally woke up to smell the coffee last July when they aggressively acquired Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo at the trading deadline. The infusion of much needed left-handed bats into a heavily righthanded lineup. I know Gallo has largely been a disappointment but the recognition that the makeup of the team needed to change was important for this year’s success. Not sure why it took Brian Cashman and company so long to figure out when fans have been clamoring for lefty bats for years. The move that began last July continued into Spring when the Yankees moved out Gary Sanchez and Luke Voit, clear additions by subtraction. Gio Urshela went too but that was more of a consequence in having to add value with Sanchez to make the move with Minnesota, bringing in Josh Donaldson, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and that muscular dude fighting the oblique injury. As much as we wanted an elite shortstop this past off-season, IKF has been a vast improvement for this year’s team. Although more was expected from Donaldson, I think he will hit as the weather continues to warm, his greater value might be the ‘edge’ he brings to the clubhouse. I think it has been a significant contributing factor to developing this year’s team chemistry and the cohesive bond that has developed.

The Dachshund Brothers / Photo Credit: Instagram

Thank you to Anthony Rizzo for all that you do. I am so grateful he is with the team. Quietly, the team MVP thus far, even if Aaron Judge is starting to dominate.

After last night’s 12-2 rain-shortened win over the Kansas City Royals, Judge discussed the team’s diversity. Speaking to reporters, he said “I think that’s what makes this team different from other years, just having that diversity in the lineup.” Again, not sure why it took Cashman so long to figure it out, but I am glad we are here. We will have our times of frustration this season, but it seems there will be more highs than lows, and not quite the roller-coaster that we rode last season.

No doubt that Nestor Cortes, Jr has played a huge role in positioning the Yankees (14-6) atop the AL East. He finally picked up his first win of the season last night but that sells short how invaluable he has been. He compensated for Gerrit Cole’s slow start and now that Cole appears to be rounding into form, it will only get better for the starting rotation…from top to bottom. I suppose it was appropriate to see Frankie Montas get pounded for a couple of home runs in Oakland’s 9-8 loss to the Cleveland Guardians last night. While I still think Montas would be a nice add, last night was a brief reminder that sometimes the best trade is the one never made. While Montas was getting hammered, Cortes, who likely would have been displaced in the rotation had the Yankees acquired Montas, battled the Royals. He gave up only two runs (one earned) despite eight hits scattered over five innings and put the Yankees in position, along with the bullpen, to let the bats do the talking with nine runs in the final two innings. Something to be said for the man who just knows how to pitch.

Nasty Nestor Cortes Jr / Credit: FOX Sports

I know it is early, but it is fun looking at stats. Here is a look at one position.

 GPAHRAVGOBPSLGwOBAwRC+WAR
118650.311.338.377.3201130.6
218761.217.289.304.274800.1
319843.256.298.385.3011000.5
416690.210.290.274.26468-0.1

The 2022 salaries for these players, in order from 1 through 4, are: $4.7 million; $35.1 million; $33 million; and $20 million. The best production from the lowest paid player. Thank you, Isiah Kiner-Falefa. I am sorry that I ever doubted you. The others are obviously the “Big 3” from last year’s free agent market, Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, and Trevor Story, respectively. I am sure the stats will normalize as the season progresses, but for now, it is fun to look at.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa

Congratulations to Giancarlo Stanton for his 350th home run. The slugger formerly known as Mike Stanton hit his first home run, a grand slam, on June 18, 2010, for the (then) Florida Marlins off Matt Garza of the Tampa Bay Rays.

“Mike” Stanton / Photo Credit: Doug Benc, Getty Images

The 350th came on Wednesday against the Baltimore Orioles when Stanton went yard in the first inning off O’s starter Tyler Wells. 

Giancarlo Stanton / Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

His 351st came quickly yesterday, another first inning dinger, this time off Royals starter Kris Bubic. It is always fun when Stanton goes on a roll. I can remember back in the 1980s when Dave Winfield would get hot and throw the entire team on his back for a winning streak. Stanton is that guy. Coincidentally, Alex Rodriguez hit 351 home runs…as a Yankee. Stanton only has 84, so he has some catching up to do.

Congratulations to Aaron Hicks and his wife, Cheyenne Woods (Tiger’s niece), for the birth of their first child. Cameron Jaxson Hicks was born on April 26th. Weighing in at 8 pounds and 20 ½ inches, he will be on the fast track for the Major Leagues…or PGA. Aaron rejoined the team in Kansas City yesterday after spending parental leave in Arizona. Very cool for Aaron and Cheyenne!

Aaron Hicks & Cameron / Photo Credit: Instagram

Finally, the NFL Draft is always one of the best times of the year. I look forward to the NFL Draft every year, particularly the first few rounds. I know most of you are Giants or Jets fans (terrific drafts so far for both teams), I am a long-suffering fan of the Minnesota Vikings. For as many championships as my favorite baseball team has won in my lifetime, the Vikings are the polar opposite with none. While I respect the new leadership of GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Head Coach Kevin O’Connell, their first two draft day trades were suspect.

The Vikings held the 12th pick in the first round, but when their pick rolled around, they traded it to the division rival Detroit Lions, dropping down to the 32nd pick. The Lions selected a talented wide receiver, Alabama’s Jameson Williams. Then, with the 34th pick they had acquired from the Lions, they traded it to the bitter division rival Green Bay Packers to give Aaron Rodgers a receiving target (Christian Watson of North Dakota State) to help make up for the loss of Davante Adams, recently traded to the Las Vegas Raiders.

I know the Vikings picked up some additional draft picks, but trading with division rivals are painful. Somehow, I suspect both Williams and Watson will be as painful to watch as seeing Garrett Whitlock thrive with the Boston Red Sox. Good thing the Vikings used their first two draft picks on defensive backs (safety Lewis Cine of Georgia and cornerback Andrew Booth, Jr of Clemson). They will need them to defend against the Lions and Packers passing attacks. Hopefully Kwesi, a brilliant mind, learns that it is better to trade outside of the division. The Vikings need to hit on those draft picks they acquired in the trades. Otherwise, these trades will haunt the team for years.

As always, Go Yankees!