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!

A Soggy First Win Against the Red Sox…

Photo Credit: Mary Altaffer, AP

A win is a win is a win…

First and foremost, prayers to those who were shot last night outside of Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. during a game between the Nationals and the San Diego Padres. Three people were injured in the gunfire exchange between two cars, but thankfully no deaths. The number of shootings in the United States this year is incredibly disturbing and quite sad. Last night’s incident, at an intersection outside of the Third Base Gate of the stadium, had the potential to be much worse than it was. Play was suspended with the Padres leading 8-4 in the sixth inning. The game will be completed later today.

As for the Yankees, they finally found a way to beat the Boston Red Sox for the first time this year. In the rain-shortened game called after six innings due to rain with the Yankees leading 3-1, we should be thankful play was unable to resume, potentially bringing Aroldis Chapman into the game. I know, he pitched better on Friday night, but still, Yankee relievers in the ninth inning have not been fun to watch for the last couple of weeks. Perhaps they have turned the corner, and the talent will re-emerge to restore its usual dominance. Nevertheless, I will gladly take the win any way it is delivered (within ethical boundaries, of course).  If the Yankees were 7-1 against Boston this year instead of the other way around, the AL East standings would look so much differently (and much, much better). 

Photo Credit: Mary Altaffer, AP

I feel very badly for outfielder Tim Locastro. When he made the leaping catch in left field against the wall padding, the injury did not appear so badly at first. Obviously, reaching for your knee is never a good sign, but Locastro stayed in left to finish the inning. He even ran back to the dugout after the inning was over, but he never came back out, replaced by Tyler Wade in the second inning. After the game, it was disclosed Locastro had suffered a season-ending torn ACL. Even though he does not have much of a hit tool, Locastro’s speed had brought a nice dimension to the Yankees lineup. I always love to see native New Yorkers do well in Pinstripes. It is unfortunate but it was probably Locastro’s final moment in Pinstripes. I guess there is a chance the Yankees keep him for 2022, but I am expecting more roster activity this off-season for deconstruct/reconstruct if the team continues to play below expectations.  Locastro’s acquisition had appeared, at least to me, to be a temporary solution for the Yankees because of the loss of Aaron Hicks for the season and the declining performance of the aging Brett Gardner, better used in situational spots than extended play.  I did not really expect Locastro t be a Yankee in 2022, but now the torn ACL could rob Locastro of his primary weapon…his speed.  The deck is clearly stacked against him. I hope for the best and pray that he can resume his MLB career, regardless of whether it is with the Yankees or another team. 

Gerrit Cole, fresh off his 129-pitch start/gem, continued his dominance with 11 strikeouts in six innings even if things got a bit dicey in the top of the sixth, in what would prove to be the game’s final inning, when the Sox loaded the bases with two outs. But Cole was able to end Boston’s threat by striking out Christian Vazquez in a heavy downpour. 

Nasty Nate, aka Nathan Eovaldi, almost matched Cole with an equally dominating performance as he yielded only two hits and a run, while striking out 7, in five innings. It was tough going early as the Yankees did not get their first hit until the fifth inning against the former Yankee pitcher. Fortunately, the Yankees, unlike the Red Sox, they were able to get into the opponent’s bullpen. The Yankees made it count with consecutive homers by Gary Sanchez and Gleyber Torres in the bottom of the sixth, two outs before the rain delay.  The home run by Sanchez was disputed by the Red Sox for fan interference, but it was upheld upon review as the ball landed past the wall despite the fan’s reach. For Gleyber, hopefully the homer in a key opportunity is the start of his rediscovery of power. 

 The Yankees fan who threw the ball at Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo at the start of the bottom of the sixth is a disgrace to the Yankees Universe.  I certainly do not blame Sox manager Alex Cora for pulling his team off the field. Thankfully, Verdugo, acquired in the Mookie Betts trade, was not hurt. As much as I dislike the Red Sox, I certainly would have clapped for Verdugo if I had been in the outfield stands, as a show of respect, when he walked back into left field.

Photo Credit: Robert Sabo, New York Post

With the win, the Yankees are still 8 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East, so the team has much work to do to dig out of their hole. They are 4.5 games from the second Wild Card spot, with a few teams ahead of them. I will always pull for the Yankees, but I am trying to maintain perspective. I am not optimistic, but I am hopeful. Throughout the history of Baseball, teams have overcome bigger challenges so anything is possible. For now, it is just to hold the words of former Yank Mariano Duncan close, “We play today, we win today…das it”. 

It is great that Hoy Jun Park and Trey Amburgey are on the Yankees roster, but Aaron Boone should play them. I have seen enough of the Rougned Odor Show to know that I would rather see another option while D.J. LeMahieu temporarily handles third base for Gio Urshela.  It is hard for me to think of Trey Amburgey as anything more than a Quad-A hitter, but he deserves the opportunity to perform. Like Locastro, I cannot really see Amburgey retaining a spot on the 40-man roster despite his years in the organization.  I always love to see a player outperform expectations and it would be nice to see the homegrown Amburgey achieve some success at the big-league level even if he will never be a star. 

All seems to be going well for Corey Kluber so it is exciting to think the Yankees could have both Luis Severino and Kluber back within the next two months, with August looming a possibility for Sevy. I am getting excited at the prospect of seeing #40 on the mound again. I know there will be rust, but hopefully he will be the #2 starter as soon as 2022 if all goes well.  It has been too long since we last saw Severino and I look forward to his continued journey back to league excellence. 

I felt the Yankees could have done better during the recent MLB Draft, but admittedly, I do not follow the minor leagues very closely. While it has been said that first round pick shortstop Trey Sweeney (Eastern Illinois) was a reach, I trust the Yankees for their ability to evaluate players (setting aside the state of the current big-league club, of course). I had expected the Yankees to grab Mississippi RHP Gunnar Hoglund, but the Blue Jays selected him a pick ahead of the Yankees, so we will never know. The MLB Draft, unlike the NFL Draft, has always seemed like a crapshoot. You look back at prior drafts, and the picks are littered with so many names that never made it. 

I did like the second pick of pitcher Brendan Beck, 22, a college senior out of Stanford. I knew in 2017 when the Yankees selected Brendan’s brother Tristan in the 29th round, he was not signable. I had kind of hoped the Yankees would somehow convince him to sign, but it was never realistic. Tristan was picked the next year (in the 4th round) by the Atlanta Braves, and is now in the San Francisco Giants organization. Brendan, unlike Tristan, gets the opportunity to pitch for Baseball’s most storied and historic franchise, and I wish him the best for much success. Beck’s signing bonus is $1,050,000; below the slotted bonus of $1,307,000.  I hope they can use the extra money to entice the third pick, Hamilton High School (AZ) LHP Brock Selvidge from fulfilling his commitment to LSU. 

Although Sweeney has yet to sign, the Yankees have signed 2B Cooper Bowman (4th Rd); Pitcher Robert Ahlstrom (7th Rd); Pitcher Chandler Champlain (9th Rd); and SS Benjamin Cowles (10th Rd). They have also signed a copy of the later picks (C Ben Rice, 12th Rd; and Pitcher Danny Watson, 15th Rd). 

I would love to see the Yankees sign the 20th round pick, RHP Sean Hard, but that is just the latest late round pick of a guy headed for college, ala Tristan Beck and Jack Leiter, hoping to create good will for future discussions.  Aside from Hard’s obvious talent, his name is right up there with Yankees’ prospect Janson Junk for greatest pitcher names. 

As always, Go Yankees!

You Win Some, You Lose Some…

Photo Credit: Michael Wyke, AP

The state of the 2021 Yankees Season…

We are nearing the end of the first half of the MLB season and despite last night’s blanking of the Astros in Houston, a field that has troubled the Yankees in recent years, it has been a disappointment. I did not expect the Yankees do be this bad or the Boston Red Sox to be this good. I still do not think the Red Sox are great but now, they are 2.5 games better than the Tampa Bay Rays and 9 games better than the Yankees or the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Yankees can make up lost ground in the second half, but admittedly, I am not fully confident they can or will. There are players on the team that need to do their part. It sucks that Aroldis Chapman, so dominant early in the season, has become Tyler Clippard.  I am thankful for Chad Green and Jonathan Loaisiga to help close out games but long-term the Yankees need to get Chapman right or get a healthy Zack Britton to keep Green and Loaisiga in high leverage seventh and eighth innings. 

Gerrit Cole gets his chance for redemption today against his former teammates. Today would be a nice day for Cole’s return to superiority. He will be facing the Astros’ Zack Greinke so it should be a good pitcher’s game. Hopefully, the Yankee bats come alive against Greinke who has not really showed any signs of slowing down despite his age (37). 

Photo Credit: Getty Images

At what point does Yankees Management get held responsible for the under-performance of the team? I get it that the game is played by the players and not the manager, coaches, general manager, or owner, but motivating the players and maximizing performance does lie with Teams Boone and Cashman.  I have been supportive of Boone since he was hired, but this season has eroded some of the confidence I have had in him. It is tough to watch a guy like Alex Cora, whom I personally despise for his smugness and role in the cheating scandals in Houston and Boston, routinely get the most out of his players. He has shown a better aptitude for the job than Boone. I really hate to say that…I honestly do.

If the Yankees finish this season with less than 90 wins, Hal Steinbrenner needs to look awfully hard at the manager and general manager. At some point, the hard decision to make a change must be made. I know that Brian Cashman has been GM longer than some younger Yankee fans have been alive but that does not make him invincible or mean that he is the right leader for the 2022 season and beyond.  Roster construction has been heavily criticized in recent years by the fans, and I feel there are some merits in the arguments. There are obvious moves that we have seen the team should have made but for whatever reason did not. I am not referring to the screams to call up outfielder Trey Amburgey, whom Mike Axisa (rightfully) referred to as a Quad-A player this week, but the weaknesses of the team have been glaring yet not addressed. While the trade for Tim Locastro may not be one that I condoned at the time, I do like his presence on the team. I have no idea if he will be around for the long haul and it probably does not matter, but the Yankees need to recognize that Aaron Hicks is not the answer next year and Brett Gardner, despite last night’s heroics, is not the player he once was.  A long-term solution for centerfield is needed now.

The one player that does seem to be turning the corner is Jameson Taillon as he continues to distance himself from Tommy John surgery (August 2019).  I was down on him earlier in the season, but I recognize it was unfair. I really like the guy and I love how much he cares about this team and about winning. I know he has great potential, and I am glad he is a Yankee. A win on Sunday against Houston to close out the first half would be a wonderful thing indeed. 

Photo Credit: David Dermer, USA TODAY Sports

I care about the Yankees, and I want them to win, but unless this team can get hot and go on a long winning streak, we will have to watch teams we dislike in the playoffs while the lights of Yankee Stadium have been shuttered in October. I probably get less worked up about losses right now than I did earlier in the season when I felt like the team had a great chance to reach the World Series. The team needs to prove to me and to the fan base they want to win and will do what it takes to win the winnable games and minimize the losses with strong fundamental play, timely hitting and consistent pitching. Aaron Boone, you are on the clock. If this team cannot turn the corner, it is because you could not motivate them to do better, to play within the realm of their talent and passion.  If the Yankees do get hot in the second half and the Red Sox and Rays cool off, the current AL East standings could change significantly despite the current nine-game gap.  I remember how defeated I felt in the summer of 1978, despite Ron Guidry’s incredible dominance in each start, when the Yankees were 14 games behind in July. We all know how that one worked out. It can happen again.

I still do not know if the Yankees should be buyers or sellers at the trading deadline. If they are still limping along two weeks from now, it may be time to start looking at ways to improve the team for the 2022 season. Not ready to throw in the towel this month or next, but realistically, we should have a better idea of the team’s direction by the last week of July. 

For now, let us focus on winning the next two games, and then enjoy the break. It will be nice to watch some baseball in the Mile High City even if I must watch on TV (called Denver home for four years until moving back to California in 2020). I love Coors Field and it has long been one of my favorite parks. I have a ticket to see a game there later in the season and look forward to seeing it in person again. It is just too bad I cannot be there to enjoy the week’s All-Star festivities.

As always, Go Yankees!

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back…

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

Season of Inconsistent Play Continues…

Sadly, it is nearly July and the Yankees have been the pinnacle of mediocrity. So much for my plans for the Yankees to overtake the Boston Red Sox by Memorial Day. At this point, even Labor Day is starting to look like a stretch. The Yankees can make up the six games to catch the division leading Tampa Bay Rays (who sit a ½ game up on the Red Sox entering play today), but my confidence in their ability this year has waned. With every step forward, the Yankees seemingly take two steps back. It has just been that kind of year.

While I heard the calls for the heads of Yankees manager Aaron Boone and hitting coach Marcus Thames, I put this one on GM Brian Cashman. Last off-season’s moves seemed like they were high risk moves.  I know, high reward potential but the risk has become evident with the loss of Corey Kluber for an extended period due to injury and the disappointing starts by Jameson Taillon.  I think every Yankees fan knew how to rebuild the Yankees offense except Cashman. I say that mostly in jest because I recognize Cashman knows more about this team than any of us ever will, but it is hard not to notice the offensive shortcomings and wonder what could have been had the right moves been made.

A quick note of defense for Taillon, he did pitch better last night even if the Yankees were unable to win the game against the Oakland Athletics.

Although Cashman says the Yankees will be buyers at the trading deadline, I have my doubts. We will see. I am not overly optimistic about October chances unless there is a significant improvement in team performance. The talent is there. The results are not.  A nice ten-game winning streak would be nice about now. Start today and move forward. Getting on a winning roll would certainly help rebuild some confidence in this team.

My worst fear when the Yankees traded for former Oakland A’s starter Sonny Gray materialized last night with the Yankee Stadium appearance by A’s starter (and winner) James Kaprielian. At the time, it was tough to lose Dustin Fowler and Jorge Mateo, but Kaprielian stood out to me as the one that hurt the most. I know the injury label and many fans scoffed at his injury history, but it has always been clear the talent was there. He was one of my favorite Yankee prospects and I did not want to see him go (despite the injuries). Now that he is healthy, he will prove to be a thorn in future Yankees-A’s games. His history with the Yankees only serves to motivate him more to defeat our favorite team. I probably harbor some hope that Kap will find his way back to Pinstripes one day.

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

This of course leads me to the Mike Ford trade. I do not enjoy trades within the division. Growing up, I always hated seeing the young prospects that George Steinbrenner traded away become great Major League players. Seeing them flourish with a division rival adds salt to the wound. While I do not think Mike Ford will ever be an All-Star first baseman, I was surprised the Yankees traded him to the Tampa Bay Rays. We always enjoyed Ford’s bat flips but somehow, I suspect they will not be so fun to watch anymore. Like Kaprielian last night, Ford will have added motivation to beat the Yankees.  Cash and a player to be named later seems to be a small return for the damage Ford might do against his former team. It is not like the PTBNL is going to be a top ten prospect.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

As for Ford’s departure, I am happy for Chris Gittens, and I hope he takes full advantage of his opportunity. Luke Voit may be the starter when healthy, but his injuries have shown the Yankees need a strong backup. We had hoped Ford would be that guy and he just was not. I would like to see Gittens fare better. I always hate to see D.J. LeMahieu in the lineup at first base because it means Rougned Odor is the starting second baseman. I would rather have someone else thrive at first to keep Le Machine at second base and Odor on the bench. 

I am glad the fans are back in Yankee Stadium. Cardboard cut-outs and fake fan noise are memories from a summer gone by and now we enter a new summer with the heartbeat of the Yankees Universe filling the stadium stands to capacity to motivate a struggling team to better play.  Despite the re-opening, I was a little disappointed to see so many empty seats but that will undoubtedly change as people readjust to the ability to attend games. The downside for me, living in California, is the inability to frequently travel to the Bronx. If I were closer, I certainly would.

I always love going to Dodger Stadium, but it is just not quite like the palace of Yankee Stadium. 

As always, Go Yankees! 

Pinstriped Victories are the Best…

Photo Credit: Adam Hunger, AP


Led by starting pitching, the Yankees are on a roll…

The world always feels a little better when the Yankees are winning. They have won five consecutive games and have taken seven straight series including the latest one with the talented Chicago White Sox.

This has been an eventful week in the Yankees Universe, featuring a no-hitter by Corey Kluber, and Friday night’s triple play to erase a White Sox threat against Aroldis Chapman, which allowed the Yankees to win the game in walk-off fashion in the bottom of the ninth. 

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

I had my doubts about Corey Kluber (sorry) when the Yankees signed him in the off-season. It was tough to see James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka go and Kluber’s health history in recent years was less than stellar, but in retrospect, it was a great signing as Kluber has continued to improve as the season has progressed. In comparison, Paxton is not playing baseball after his recent Tommy John surgery and Tanaka has struggled in Japan (he took the loss yesterday against the Nippon Ham Fighters, dropping his season record to 2-2, with 3.00 ERA). The failure to find his splitter was the primary cause for Tanaka’s struggles yesterday but it has been that kind of season for the former Yankee. Kluber, meanwhile, has made up for the losses of Paxton and Tanaka. I would like to include Jameson Taillon in that statement, but we are not there yet. Kluber has provided the Yankees with one of their best number two starters in recent years. Not trying to knock Tanaka or Paxton, but Kluber is showing why he was such a great pitcher and competitor all those years in Cleveland.

It was exciting for Kluber to realize his no-no on the very mound that he pitched his one and only 2020 regular season inning for the Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas. Although he was born in Birmingham, Alabama, Kluber went to high school in Coppell, Texas. Coppell is a northwest suburb of Dallas and a short ride from Arlington. It does seem like there have been a lot of no hitters this season. Kluber’s gem was the sixth of the season, one night after Spencer Turnbull of the Detroit Tigers threw one. Still, it was the first by a New York Yankee since David Cone threw the memorable perfect game in 1999. The only place other than Globe Life Park that might have been better for Kluber’s masterpiece (excluding Yankee Stadium) is Fenway Park. Kluber has a home in Boston and of course it would be fun to see the Red Sox go hitless any day of the week. It was probably tough for the Rangers fans to see their former player so dominant and wondering what could have been for them had Kluber been healthy during his time in the Metroplex. 

Photo Credit: Tony Gutierrez, AP

The triple play was such a thrilling moment on Friday night. Aroldis Chapman seemed to be having an off night (those happen) after walking the first batter in the top of the ninth, followed by his fielding error on a sacrifice which put runners at first and second with no outs. But as quickly as Chicago’s Andrew Vaughn hit the ball to Gio Urshela at third, the inning was over. It set the stage for Gleyber Torres to win the game in their next at-bat when he hit the third consecutive single of the bottom of the ninth inning to score Aaron Judge. The Chicago White Sox are one of baseball’s best young and up-and-coming teams, so the weekend series was expected to be a challenge and a potential preview of this Fall’s playoffs. With Saturday’s win, the Yankees have won another series regardless of what happens today. 

Jameson Taillon pitches this afternoon against Dallas Keuchel. I cannot say I am too optimistic about winning with Taillon on the mound, but the Yankees have done better against Keuchel in recent years after his dominance against them earlier when he was a younger starter for the Houston Astros. Today is a good day for Taillon to round the curve and begin the journey to, hopefully, better starts. I want to see Taillon succeed as a Yankee and I do not want to see him pulled from the rotation, but he cannot continue to struggle if he intends to hold down his spot. Luis Severino will soon start facing live hitters so his return will take focus within the next couple of months. He will be looking to take a rotation spot away from someone. Taillon has the power to ensure it is not his spot…or not…it is up to him.  I hope for his success.

I am getting a little tired of all the speculation among Yankees fans regarding who the Yankees should acquire to cover center field with the season-ending loss of Aaron Hicks after his wrist surgery. I have no idea who the Yankees should acquire but they need to do something. Playing Brett Gardner every day is not the answer. Promoting Estevan Florial seems a bit premature since he is not yet ready with his development. One day, but not today, tomorrow, or next week for the 22-year-old outfielder. The best option is most likely outside of the organization today. There will be no big, splashy type of trades, in my opinion. It will be an ‘under-the-radar’ move for a young cost-controlled player with potential who is currently in the Show or ready for it or a low-cost veteran. I am not expecting any big trades and there is certainly no chance the Yankees will take on a large salary without unloading a commensurate level of salary.

I have not been Miguel Andujar’s biggest fan, but I am glad to see he is taking advantage of the opportunity to play. He is far from a great outfielder but to his credit, he is trying, and he is improving. Those are two important factors for success.   

Photo Credit: Terrance Williams, AP

Despite the better play of late, the Yankees still find themselves in third place in the AL East although the gap is tightening. Entering play today, they are 1 ½ games behind the Red Sox and trail the Tampa Bay Rays by a ½ game. They have the same number of losses as the Rays (19) and only one more than the Red Sox. I had hoped Joe Girardi and his Philadelphia Phillies could have helped us out this weekend but, so far, they have dropped the first two games of the three-game set with the Red Sox at Citizen’s Bank Park.  The Yankees are running out of time to reach my goal of first place by Memorial Day Weekend, but we could see some movement in the standings this week. 

The Yankees have signed former Cincinnati Reds RHP Sal Romano to a minor league deal. He was assigned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In 14 appearances for the Reds this season, he had posted a 5.23 ERA before he was designated for assignment and released by the Reds. Romano had been with the Reds for his entire career (drafted in the 23rd round of the 2011 MLB Draft). His roster spot had been in jeopardy with the Reds this season due to his struggles, and it was lost when the Reds saw an upgrade their roster by claiming a better pitcher, RHP Michael Feliz, who had been waived by the Pittsburgh Pirates). He seems to be depth for Triple A, but it will be interesting to see how Romano performs under the tutelage of Yankee pitching coaches and analytics.  He carries the reputation of not missing many bats, so something is going to have to change if he ever intends to wear the Pinstripes at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees will have to face another one of their former players in the AL East following Tampa’s acquisition of former Yankees reliever J.P. Feyereisen from the Milwaukee Brewers. Feyereisen was one of the players acquired from the Cleveland Indians in the 2016 Andrew Miller trade that also netted Clint Frazier (in addition to Justus Sheffield and Ben Heller). He was traded to Milwaukee in September 2019 for a prospect and international signing bonus money. He has been a solid reliever for the Brewers and figures to help the Rays. I was a little surprised the Rays traded their starting shortstop, Willy Adames, to the Brewers. I know the Rays have the best shortstop prospect in baseball (Wander Franco) but considering Franco is not yet ready for the call, it seemed to be a strange move even if Adames is not a great player.

Speaking of not-so-great players, I saw the Brewers released infielder/outfielder Dee Strange-Gordon. He seems like a guy Brian Cashman might take a minor league flyer on. It has been a tough road for Strange-Gordon this season. Following his unsuccessful three-year run in Seattle, where they converted him to an outfielder when they still had Robinson Cano at second, he signed this off-season with the Reds but was released and subsequently signed by Milwaukee. It does not seem like it was that long ago Strange-Gordon was a young promising player, but he is now 33 and having a hard time finding his way back to MLB. 

As always, Go Yankees!

COVID Loves the Yankees…

Outbreak impacts Yankees on current road trip…

It was a tough week for the Yankees with the COVID-19 outbreak but as GM Brian Cashman urged everyone to consider, the vaccinations received by players, coaches and support personnel helped minimize the damage and harm that could have been suffered if unvaccinated. Seven coaches and support personnel, plus Gleyber Torres, have been asymptomatic and, according to Manager Aaron Boone, it is possible Gleyber could be back in less than 10 days since the joint MLB-MLBPA committee has the discretion to approve an earlier return if the player is asymptomatic and receives multiple negative tests. That is good news. Hoping a full speedy recovery for all of those impacted, and for no more cases affecting the team.

The news about Aaron Hicks is not so good. Of course, we do not know if the tear in the tendon sheath of his left wrist will only require some rest for a short period of time or if he will need surgery which of course could put him out for a while. It just seems like ‘same old, same old…’ with Hicks. It is always something that keeps him off the field. The wrist problem may be to blame for his slow start this year, but it is starting to seem, to me, that Hicks is just not a reliable, dependable contributor. Nice moments at times, but not consistent or sustainable. Bummer, I like Hicks and wish he could be a reliable, go-to player but he is not. 

Photo Credit: Mike Carlson, AP

Naturally, with Hicks’ health woes, the cackles from the Yankees fan base about Mike Tauchman have turned up the volume. I thought 2019 Tauchman was a decent player, but I am not pining for his return. On the season, he is batting .209/.274/.313, with .263 wOBA and wRC+ of 68. One home run, which he hit in his fourth game with the San Francisco Giants, and 9 RBIs. No thanks. I am not enamored with Brett Gardner playing center field every day, but I have better confidence in Brian Cashman and company uncovering a potential player who can help if Hicks is out for an extended period than wishing for the return of an unproductive player. I would love to see Estevan Florial, who was called up to Triple A this past week, but he is not ready…yet. 

I was a little alarmed earlier this week when I heard Luis Severino had woken up with a sore back, but thankfully it proved to be nothing and Sevy was able to pitch live batting practice this week. I am looking forward to Sevy’s return. The Yankees pitching staff has been better of late, but it will be better WITH Sevy than without. Currently, Jameson Taillon seems to be weakest link. This can and most likely will change. I would dump Domingo German in a New York minute regardless of how he is pitching for Severino, but that is just me. I have been incredibly pleased with Jordan Montgomery this season, and of course, Gerrit Cole has been the beast we all thought he would be. Corey Kluber has shown he is not the pitcher he once was, but as a 35-year-old in the process of making age-related adjustments, I have no complaints. Keep the team in games and I am good. I am hopeful and optimistic there will be no further setbacks for Sevy, and we will get to see him later this summer.

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, NY Post

Championship attitude. After Gio Urshela entered last night’s game as a pinch-hitter and delivered what proved to be the game-winning home run, he was quoted after the game saying, “You’ve got to be ready, all the time, from pitch one.” Clearly one of Cashman’s best ‘diamond in the rough’ finds, Urshela said, “I was warming up in the innings before that, just trying to keep my body warm and be ready for opportunity.” Honestly, I did not expect much when the Yankees acquired Urshela from the Toronto Blue Jays. Although I had remembered some of the highlight reel plays that he made as a member of the Cleveland Indians, I viewed him as an all-glove, no bat player and figured he was just Triple A depth. Glad I was wrong on that one. Urshela has been a godsend, and his attitude conveys he is the right player at the right time. I am glad he is a Yankee. I enjoyed watching the playful headlock he put on Gary Sanchez in the dugout after the home run. Team chemistry is everything. Winning begets winning. 

Photo Credit: AP

My goal remains for the Yankees to be in first place in the AL East by Memorial Day Weekend. If they had beaten the Tampa Bay Rays in last week’s getaway game, they could have tied the Boston Red Sox. They did not and find themselves two games back after yesterday’s comeback win. There is no question Boston will fade, but the sooner the Yankees can leapfrog them, the better. 

I am not sure how or why, but every season, since I was a kid, my hope for the Yankees is a 34-21 or better record after 55 games. I do not know or recall the reason for why those numbers stick out to me and why specifically 55 games, but the Yankees remain in contention for that mark. They are presently 21-17. They would have to get hot, but this team can do it.

It was sad to see Albert Pujols unceremoniously dumped by the Los Angeles Angels. I suppose the story may have been different if Pujols had simply said this would be his last season to allow a farewell tour. I know, it is hard for some players to let go. There’s part of me that would like to see him go back to St Louis but considering he is not much more than a DH at this point, there is probably no chance. The Yankees do not need him, but I would like to see a contender give Pujols an opportunity to exit the game on his terms. Regardless of what happens, a call to the Hall awaits him.

Here is to good health, from this day forward, for the Yankees.

As always, Go Yankees!

Gerrit Cole is a Yankee…

Photo Credit: AP

Another dominant start by Caden Cole’s dad…

I know, the title of this post is probably one of the most over-used phrases on Social Media, but what a difference an ace makes! As if we do not say it enough, thank you, Hal Steinbrenner, for your gracious gift of $324 million to Baseball’s best pitcher. 

In a showdown with the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, Shane Bieber, Cole emerged victorious with yesterday’s one-run win as the Yankees took down the Cleveland ‘soon to be formerly named’ Indians, 2-1. Regardless of whether he wins or loses, or if he gives up a homer, I know I have so much more confidence when Cole is on the mound. Coupled with the brilliant contributions provided by the Yankees bullpen this season, it is a winning combination.

Cole recorded eleven strikeouts to raise his season total to fifty in five games. Jacob deGrom has as many in only four games, but regardless, you know Cole will reach his usual 300 by season’s end so long as good health remains his friend. I think this is the most I have joined a Yankees starting pitcher since the prime (early Yankee career) of CC Sabathia. I remember the fun and excitement of the summer of ’78 with the brilliant pitching performance of Ron Guidry. Cole brings the same excitement I felt as a kid. 

Thanks to Cole, the Yankees have their first three-game winning streak of the young season following the sluggish start. A record of 9-11 feels much better than 6-11. One day at a time, one win at a time. Borrowing former Yankee Mariano Duncan’s famous words, “we play today, we win today”. Breaking the weekend only one game below .500 would be a great way to start the new week. Despite the slow start, the Yankees are only three games behind the current AL leaders, the Boston Red Sox. Nobody expects Boston to be there at the end except for maybe the RSN. It’s a matter of when, not if, the Yankees will catch and pass the Red Sox. The Tampa Bay Rays, the more formidable competitor, sit a game and a half above the Yankees entering play today. The up-and-coming Toronto Blue Jays are currently tied with the Yankees for third place. If the Yankees can be in first place by Memorial Day Weekend, with Luis Severino looming on the horizon, life will truly be good.

I saw the tweet by Erik Kratz yesterday morning and of course Michael Kay mentioned it during the TV broadcast of yesterday’s game, but it is worth revisiting. Kratz tweeted: “Are the Yankees too professional? Maybe Rougned Odor gives them the swag they need outwardly. He brings a dynamic that, combined with the other talent already on the roster, could make them lethal, even if statistically he doesn’t play well.”

Photo Credit: AP

There were many Odor haters when the Yankees made the recent trade. I did not really understand the trade either for no other reason than Odor simply has not been a good player for a few years now despite his young age.  Yet, I did not rip the Yankees for the move. I see the financial aspect with the Texas Rangers paying Odor’s big contract, but I knew the Yankees must have seen something in him they thought could be corrected. Look, I am not expecting him to become a superstar in Pinstripes. He will not even be a starter when Luke Voit returns to push DJ LeMahieu back to second base. But his competitive spirit is refreshing, and it is helping drive others to better performance which is a single characteristic that carries value. Imagine his energy matched with Voit’s when the Yankees first baseman is back on the field. I like the swagger. The Tampa Bay Rays have shown they are not intimidated by the Yankees. I would love to see the changing of the tide. Put some fear in the hearts of the Rays. 

While the jury is still out on Odor, it is important to remember Cashman’s moves sometimes need time to marinate. Odor, although he may not be a great hitter, is seemingly coming up with the big hits at the right time. His home run yesterday, the margin of victory, showed there is life in the bat. Given how much Daniel Burch of The Greedy Pinstripes loves bat flips, no doubt he is enjoying it when Odor goes yard. 

https://www.etsy.com/shop/BatFlipBrotherhood

I suppose there is some irony that the two home runs in Saturday’s game were provided by two players despised by Yankees Twitter, Odor and Aaron Hicks.  Gerrit Cole called Odor “the cherry on top” so you know the Yankee players value these guys, even if Twitter does not.

I am a little sad Corey Kluber will not face his former team this series. For as much as Kluber haunted us an Indian, it would have been nice to exact some revenge.  

I could not care less about the New York Mets, but I have to say I am sorry to see the continued struggles of former Yankees’ reliever Dellin Betances. The former strikeout artist has been dealing with right shoulder impingement this season, and this past week the Mets moved Betances to the 60-day injured list. This means Betances will not be available until sometime in June. Now into his second season with the Mets, Betances has only been able to pitch 12 2/3 innings in regular season games for New York’s second-best MLB team. He deserves better. Not sure if we will ever see vintage Betances again, but he will most likely need to leave New York City to make it happen, especially if the latest injury keeps him out longer than currently expected or if he runs into further injuries in the months ahead. 

Speaking of former Yankees, farewell to Neil Walker who announced his retirement this past week. Walker is a good guy, and I enjoyed his time with the Yankees even if his performance was forgettable. He was not the player he had been earlier in his career (obviously), but he was a team guy. Like Jay Bruce, I had hoped for much more, but it was quite simply not meant to be. Walker’s career effectively ended when the Philadelphia Phillies released him last September after playing just 18 games during the 2020 season.  Father Time nails everybody, except for maybe Tom Brady. Walker’s playing card was revoked at age 35. Time for him to launch his second act for life after MLB. Hopefully, it will prove to be rewarding and successful for Neil and his family.   

Photo Credit: Brad Penner, USA TODAY Sports

I saw the Yankees were in attendance, among many other teams, for a showcase last week featuring free agent right-hander Anibal Sanchez. It is hard for me to get enthused about the 37-year-old. I probably prefer to see Deivi Garcia achieve Bronx success over bringing in aging journeyman arms.  I am trying to keep expectations low, but I am excited about the return of Luis Severino later this summer even if the initial return from Tommy John surgery is generally met with choppy waters. And no, J.A. Happ’s flirtation with a no-hitter last week did not make me wish he were still around. 

When the Yankees broke out of the gate, falling on their ass, to start the season, the calls for the removal of Aaron Boone started to get louder. I even saw one article yesterday that suggested the Yankees should turn to former manager Buck Showalter. Sorry, as much as I like Buck and having him back in the family at the YES Network, I am not pining for his return to the field. I like Aaron Boone and I continue to support his leadership. Even growing up during the George Steinbrenner era, I am not a fan of in-season firings, even as an attempt to spark a team. Boone deserves a chance to see this season through conclusion. If he falls short, re-evaluate in the off-season. I do not see any available managerial candidates as difference-makers over Boone. Now that the Yankees are starting to play better, the calls for Boone’s head will hopefully subside. It is funny how people love to go after Boone when it is Brian Cashman who dealt the playing cards. Ultimately, I feel Cashman should be held to a higher standard for accountability. He has had a long tenure with the Yankees, but the team has not won since 2009 as all of us know too painfully well.  An off-season change with the general manager’s seat might be more powerful than ending Boone’s time in Pinstripes.  But now is not the time for either. There will be plenty of time to reevaluate at season’s end. For now, the focus should be on bringing a championship back to the Bronx.

First place by Memorial Day Weekend. Onward and upward, let’s win today.

As always, Go Yankees!

There Will Be Better Days…

Photo Credit: Dirk Shadd, Tampa Bay Times

Yankees off to usual slow start…

Can we take a mulligan on the season and start over? Slow starts seem to be a “Yankee thing”…unfortunately. It will get better. The wins will come but I always have unrealistic optimism for an undefeated streak, or least an extraordinary amount of April wins, to start the season, propelling the momentum for a strong season (much like how the 2018 Boston Red Sox charged to the championship) , but in usual fashion for our favorite team, a slow start eventually followed by consecutive series wins that puts the Yankees in the upper part of the division by June is the standard formula.

It is early, but the AL East standings appear to be in inverse order: 1. Orioles. 2. Red Sox. 3. Yankees & Rays. 5. Blue Jays. Flip the standings, drop the Jays and Rays a spot or two, and I am good.

I was hoping for more with the first game against last year’s AL East champion Tampa Bay Rays yesterday, especially with Corey Kluber on the mound. Sadly, it was not vintage Klubot. Not going to fret over one start, but it was not very pretty. Pulled with one out in the third inning, Kluber’s final line was five runs (three earned) with two walks and three strikeouts. He failed to preserve a brief two-run Yankees lead, and ultimately took the loss when Nick Nelson allowed the Rays to put the game out of reach. Bummer. There will be better Kluber starts this summer, but I was kind of hoping for a better first start against the Rays. 

Photo Credit: AP

I am unsure what to think about Aaron Judge’s latest injury. The Yankees always seem to be guarded with the information they will release about Judge and his ailments. Judge will be an unrestricted free agent in 2023 (and age 31). I have growing doubts the Yankees will commit long-term dollars to Judge and it is sad. When healthy, he is such a great asset…the bat, the glove, the clubhouse personality, etc. But if he cannot stay on the field, what is the value? The Yankees would be foolish to tie up so much money for a player who will become an even greater injury risk as he moves through his 30’s. Judge remains one of my favorite players and I really hope that he can put consistent time on the field to earn an extension. It is only my optimism, not desire, that is starting to fade. If the injuries continue, the desire will exit.

Speaking of health, Gio Urshela missed yesterday’s game after side effects from his vaccine shot. He is expected back this weekend, possibly today. Glad to hear much of the team has been getting their vaccinations and they do not show the vaccine hesitancy of other MLB teams. It is unfortunate Urshela suffered the adverse reaction but hopefully he is doing much better today. 

This was not a good week for health news regarding former Yankees players. The worst was former Yankees starter James Paxton. Paxton was pulled from his first start with his new/old team, the Seattle Mariners, after 24 pitches, recording only four outs. Afterwards, it was disclosed that Paxton likely needs Tommy John surgery. If so, he will be derailed for the rest of the season and likely all of 2022. I do not wish any ill will toward anyone and certainly not against the Big Maple, but it is somewhat of a relief the Yankees did not sign him to a new contract last off-season. No doubt his injury history played into the decision and rightfully so. Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon carry their own risk, but for now, knock on wood, they are healthy. Paxton’s MRI has apparently been sent to noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles for a second opinion. Dr. ElAttrache is the Head Team Physician for both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Rams. If this goes the path of Tommy John surgery, I wish Paxton the best for a successful procedure and a speedy and full recovery. He is a good man and I look forward to seeing him on the field again even if he no longer wears the pinstripes.

Photo Credit: Dean Rutz, The Seattle Times

The other ailing former Yank is New York Mets reliever Dellin Betances. Betances was placed on the 10-day injured list this week with a right shoulder impingement. Based on his last couple of seasons, Betances has picked up the tag “oft-injured” and his reduced velocity has been well documented. He was a great Yankee but it appears the Mets will never see that player. Not that I want the Mets to be successful (I do not) but I want Betances to succeed. Hopefully Dellin can overcome the latest health challenges, without missing too much time, and pitch effectively for the Mets. It is a contract year for him (with limited options last off-season, he exercised his player option which pays him $6 million this year but he is an unrestricted free agent after the season) and it is hard to see the New York native staying in the City.  He deserves better and I hope he finds it.

Photo Credit: ESPN

Color me as perplexed as anyone when the Yankees acquired the poor hitting Rougned Odor. When I saw the Texas Rangers were paying Odor’s salary, basically meaning Odor has no impact on the luxury cap, I can certainly see why he would appeal to Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner. But aside from the homers, the bat has been horrific for a long time. I know he is only 27 (that keeps seeming to be the first positive everyone puts forward) but we all know young age does not equal success. I am skeptical the Yankees can find magic in his bat (or his glove). Thairo Estrada lost his seat at the table to make room for Odor when he was designated for assignment. Honestly, I would prefer Estrada over Odor. If the Yankees somehow unlock the potential Odor once held, great for them. I would love to see it happen. Realistically, I think he is just a future ex-Yank that could not cut it. 

Photo Credit: Smiley N Pool, The Dallas Morning News

The biggest surprise of the trade for Odor was remembering that Yankees prospect Antonio Cabello, who went to Texas with outfield prospect Josh Stowers, is only 20. He’s been around for so long, it seems like he should be older. The Yankees had moved the former catcher to the outfield, but the Rangers intend to resume his catching career. I hope Cabello achieves his dreams in North Texas. As for Stowers, it never really seemed like he had a future in New York when the Yankees acquired him a couple of seasons ago for the prospect they had acquired in the Sonny Grade trade to Cincinnati (second baseman Shed Long).  I get the Yankees’ logic. It is just a roll of the dice. If it works, they will be heroes. If it does not, Odor can be easily dismissed without financial ramifications. So, for now, welcome to the Yankees family, Mister Odor.  

I hope Estrada either clears waivers and is outrighted to the minors or the Yankees can trade him for something (bullpen help?). I would hate to see him simply cut for nothing.

Congratulations to Joe Musgrove for throwing the first no-hitter of the young season. Last off-season, before he was traded from the Pittsburgh Pirates to the San Diego Padres, many Yankee fans were calling for the Yankees to acquire him. Instead, the Yankees went for a different Pirates starter after Musgrove went to the land of “Sunny and 74”. I certainly do not regret the acquisition of Jameson Taillon and as previously noted, one start does not define a season, but good for Musgrove and congrats to the Yankee fans who saw the potential. It is kind of funny that Musgrove’s pitching coach is Larry Rothschild.

I am glad baseball is back. It is nice to see some people in the stands again after last year’s empty seats and cardboard cut-outs in some parks. I look forward to fuller stadiums as we move into the summer and fall.  Nothing better than a packed, energized Yankee Stadium crowd for a pennant chase and trophy hunt. It has been far too long since we have had that experience.

As always, Go Yankees!

Injuries Are Un-a-Voit-able…

Injured List claims Luke Voit, opens door for Bruce…

Hopefully, it is a not a case of “here we go again”, but the first major injury of the year occurred when the Yankees announced several days ago that Luke Voit would undergo surgery for a meniscus tear in his left knee. He had been dealing with swelling in the knee after games and decided it was better to take care of the issue now, rather than later in the season.  With no baseball activity for the next three weeks, he is expected to be out until May…possibly into June, depending upon how his rehab goes. 

The beneficiary of the Voit news is obviously Jay Bruce who had exercised his opt-out on Thursday and was within the 48-hour window for the team to decide their plans for the veteran outfielder/converted first baseman.  If Voit had been healthy, I fully expected Bruce to be handed his walking papers. There was no way the team was going to trade Mike Tauchman (versatility plays, versatility pays).  If Tauchman had stunk it up this spring, I would have been all in favor of his trade, but he showed enough flashes of his 2019 version. If he can prove 2020 was the fluke and not 2019, he will play a very vital role for the Yankees this season even if first base is not one of his positions. Maybe he should pick up Luke’s glove. Just kidding…maybe. Meanwhile, Bruce is the one trying to prove he can get better as a first baseman with regular playing time, at least for the foreseeable future. Let us hope Bruce’s defense does not make us miss Voit’s glove, who is not exactly in Don Mattingly’s realm as a superior defender.

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, New York Post

It is anybody’s guess what happens when Voit returns. Given his linebacker’s mentality, I’d bet the under for his return. If Bruce is playing well, it will be extremely difficult to cut him. I guess that is a question the Yankees will have to address when the time comes. Other injuries will certainly determine present and immediate needs. 

To make room for Bruce on the 40-man roster, the Yankees moved Clarke Schmidt (right elbow strain) to the 60-day injured list.

The loser of the Voit news is Mike Ford. As a choice for Luke’s replacement, he will instead start the season with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. Granted, he will be the first option for help if Bruce has any difficulty at first or gets hurt.  Ford cannot just sit back and wait for the phone call. He has Chris Gittens breathing down his neck.  Not that I ever try to read too much into spring stats, but Gittens certainly represents a first base option for the future based on the past few weeks. He played more games this spring than Ford even if he did not get as many overall at-bats. He hit three homers and drove in 7 runs in 20 games while Ford had one home run and 3 RBIs in 11 games.  Gittens delivered 6 hits in 19 ABs, while Ford had only one more hit despite 8 more at-bats. At 27, Gittens is a year younger and four inches taller.  Not that either factor is meant to imply Ford cannot do the job or that Gittens is better, but Chris has shown flashes he may be ready to help.

I had really wanted Derek Dietrich to make the team, but he has not played well enough to justify it. After his opt-out Thursday, the Yankees gave him his release. I certainly have no issue with the Yankees’ decision. I am only disappointed Dietrich did not show or do more.  I suppose there is a chance he could sign a new minor league deal with the Yankees to be a phone call away, but I think it is more likely he will try to catch on elsewhere. 

Lucas Luetge, 34, has certainly proved dreams come true. With improved spin rates, he appears to be a lock for the Yankees bullpen during the absence of the injured Zack Britton. In 10 1/3 innings, Luetge has given up only two runs and two walks while striking out 18.  The strikeouts lead the relievers and are second most on the team behind Gerrit Cole.  I have my doubts Luetge will be able to sustain his spring training performance over the course of a long season but for now, he will get to experience life in Pinstripes on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium. That is something no one can ever take from him. 

The clear loser is Tyler Lyons. While Lyons has struck out 13 batters in 7 1/3 innings, he has also given up six runs.  Not that the Yankees need to replace a lefty with a lefty, but Lyons goes down as a camp disappointment and lost opportunity as a result.

Of the right-handed relievers, I thought Kyle Barraclough had some potential to open eyes, but he appears to be just bullpen depth to be stashed away in Eastern Pennsylvania.  Maybe that is all he ever was. I just try to be a little more optimistic than I should at times. 

I am glad to hear Justin Wilson is making his first steps to return. Despite an unimpressive spring, he will be counted on as a high leverage reliever this season and we need him to round into form. 

I was a little bummed when the Boston Red Sox grabbed Yankees pitching prospect Garrett Whitlock in last December’s Rule 5 Draft and probably a little more disappointed that he has been a camp surprise who has ensured a place on Boston’s Opening Day roster. I guess it is good for him given he probably would not have achieved similar success with the Yankees. At least not right now.  The likelihood the Red Sox will be a division bottom feeder this year probably means Whitlock will be able to stay on the roster for the duration of the season. Perhaps it is just a testament to the strength of arms the Yankees have in their system.  It is simply not possible to keep all of them. I would never begrudge Whitlock opportunity to play in the Major Leagues. This is what he has played for, even if he is now wearing the wrong uniform.

Speaking of the Red Sox, the COVID-19 diagnosis for Matt Barnes probably means Boston will open the season with Adam Ottavino as their closer. Look, I loved Otto as a Yankee, but I am glad he is not my team’s closer. When he is on, he is unhittable.  But when he is off, balls are going everywhere except into the catcher’s mitt.  Good luck with that, Alex Cora. 

Last off-season, I wanted the Yankees to re-sign Masahiro Tanaka. Instead, the team made the decision to use Masa’s money to sign Corey Kluber and trade for Jameson Taillon. It seemed a bit risky given the recent health history for the latter two pitchers. Yet, the healthy pitchers this spring have been Kluber and Taillon. As for Masa, a calf injury will sideline him and delay his return debut for the Rakuten Golden Eagles. For Masa’s sake, I am glad it is just a calf injury and nothing to do with his arm or shoulder. Hopefully, he will be back soon and ready to show Rakuten fans what they have missed while he was away in New York.

It is always tough when former Yankee greats pass. The latest is 96-year-old Dr Bobby Brown. At 96 years, he had a good run.  I primarily remember him as the President of the American League, but he did have a successful post-playing career as a cardiologist in Texas. I would say it was a life well served. As a third baseman, Brown won four World Series titles with the Yankees and was the last surviving member of the 1947, 1949 and 1950 World Series champions.  Brown was noted for his post-season success. In 17 World Series games and 46 plate appearances, he hit .439/.500/.707/1.207, with five doubles and three triples. I like the story of when he told his wife during their courtship prior to marriage and before he had met her parents. “Tell your father I’m a third baseman for the Yankees. Tell your mother I’m in medical school.”  Dr Brown, thank you for your accomplishments, for your memories, and for your service. You will be missed but never forgotten. Rest peacefully.

As always, Go Yankees!

Deivi Pleads the Fifth…

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, NY Post

Garcia states his case today…

Today is a big day for Deivi Garcia (well, as big as Spring Training games can get). For him, it is a battle for the fifth spot in the starting rotation. Facing expected top AL East challenger, the Toronto Blue Jays (sorry Rays fans), Deivi can make a statement for Manager Aaron Boone and others with a strong performance.

Personally, and although I do not care for him personally, I think Domingo German has the leg up (arm up?) on Garcia. German has pitched very effectively this Spring and with a stronger MLB resume, I think German will receive first consideration. There will be opportunities for the young guys like Garcia, I just do not think he starts the year in the rotation (barring injuries, of course).  If I had my choice, I would love to see Garcia beat out German, but the realist in me says it will not happen. Yet, I think he will receive his opportunities over the course of the long season, and it will be fun to watch him get better and better with every pitch. Maybe this time next year, we are not asking if he will make the rotation, but which spot in the order of the starters.

I am starting to think Jay Bruce is going to make the Yankees’ Opening Day roster. When he was signed to a minor league deal, I did not really see how he fit the roster, but he continues to prove he can add value with his bat, plus playing some time at DH and first base. Not sure how much I would want to throw him in the outfield, but an occasional spot start is not the end of the world. I had wanted Derek Dietrich over Bruce but at this point, if one makes it, it is more probable it will be Bruce. I think the loser if Bruce makes the team is Mike Ford, not Mike Tauchman, but who knows. There are surprises every year.

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

I am not a big fan of Tyler Wade, but his ability to play shortstop provides him with some degree of roster protection. So, I cannot really see the versatile Dietrich taking Wade’s roster spot. Kyle Holder, currently in camp with the Cincinnati Reds through Rule 5, could be returned to the Yankees if he does not make the Reds (he is presently 1-for-11 this Spring). Not saying he would make the Yankees roster, but he will be a resource at the alternate training site if the Yankees need shortstop help in a pinch. The less the Yankees must rely upon Wade the better, in my opinion. I feel his position can be upgraded. Holder is probably not that guy, but he has excellent defensive skills which is a plus and if Gleyber Torres is down for any time, I would want a strong glove more than a bat at the position (considering the overall offensive strength of the team).

It is really run to watch Corey Kluber pitch. He has such a strong presence on the mound. I hated to see the Yankees face him during his dominant years with the Cleveland Indians and I am hopeful that he can create that same type of intimidation for non-Yankee fans this year. Not that Gerrit Cole needs any help to be one of the top pitchers in all of baseball, but there are things to be learned from a veteran ace like Kluber. He is just one of those guys with the ability to make everyone around him better. I like it. I look forward to the first Yankee Stadium start this year for the Klubot. Still trying to get used to number 28 on the mound (feels a little like Joe Girardi pitching) but no doubt that Kluber will soon make 28 his own. I am glad he is here (and healthy). It must be a little bittersweet for Texas Rangers fans, wondering what could have been.   

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

I am really excited about the Yankees’ starting rotation this year. The front four of Cole, Kluber, Jameson Taillon, and Jordan Montgomery is the best I have felt about the Yankees in years. Whether it is Domingo German, Deivi Garcia, Clarke Schmidt (when he returns to good health), Michael King or someone else, the fifth starter will be no slouch. Then, on the summer horizon, looms the return of the great Luis Severino. Life is good.

I know there’s concern about the bullpen loss of Zack Britton for the next 3-4 months, but the Yankees seem to believe the arms they have will step up. They could be right. The Tampa Bay Rays are notorious for seemingly rebuilding their bullpen almost every year with unknown names, yet they find success.  So long as none of the relievers give me that “shell-shocked” feeling we experienced with Tyler Clippard, I am confident they can get the job done. Like everyone else, I am quietly pulling for 33-year-old Lucas Luetge. Ten strikeouts in 4 games are an achievement, even in meaningless Spring games. With improved spin rates and the assistance of the Yankees’ pitching and analytics teams, maybe Luetge is not just a flash in the pan.  If not Luetge, then I hope Tyler Lyons claims the lefty role. Not that the Yankees need a lefty to replace Britton, but it would be nice. I liked Darren O’Day’s comment after yesterday’s game that the Yankees bullpen, as presently constructed and even without Britton, brings a different look from every reliever. I am glad Aroldis Chapman has been working on adding a split-change to his arsenal. After the recent playoff failures, we need Chappy to be the last man standing in October and not because the opposing team just hit a game-winning, World Series-ending home run off him. I want the famed Chapman stare as the last batter of the 2021 season goes down swinging.

Photo Credit: USATSI

It was not great news to read the reports Miguel Andújar has soreness in right hand/wrist and will see a specialist on Monday. With Gio Urshela’s delayed start to the regular season, Miggy is being counted on to hold down third base until Gio’s return. The Yankees can move D.J. LeMahieu to third base in the interim if Miggy misses time. I suppose if that happens, Dietrich’s chances to make the roster improve since he can play second base. Hopefully, the news about Miggy will not be serious enough to deter his availability for Opening Day but it is certainly a concern until we know more. Hoping to hear good news about Miggy on Monday.

Robinson Chirinos, we hardly knew ye. Non-roster invitee Chirinos was a long shot before he fractured his right wrist, but now, it is probably the last we have seen of him in Pinstripes. Some Yankee fans were upset about his presence, but it did not bother me. If he has rapport with Gerrit Cole, why not roll the dice? Rob Brantly’s home run on Friday was his statement that he is more than happy to be the third catcher. I feel bad for Chirinos. At age 36, any injury can be a career-ender. The wrist is always so problematic, and it is not as easy as just letting the bone heal. Wrist injuries always remind me of the struggles Mark Teixeira experienced when he injured his wrist. Brantly will not make the Opening Day roster, but he will be a phone call away in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, most likely, if the Yankees need help. With no offense to Brantly, I hope he never receives the call but that is beside the point. Sadly, injuries happen, and the Yankees need to be prepared. Hopefully, this is the year we see less injuries than in recent seasons, but we are not off to a great start. 

We are starting to move into that part of Spring Training where the excitement about the return of baseball has moved to the ‘let’s just get this over so we can get to Opening Day’ stage. With the limited travel of this year’s Spring schedule, I am starting to get tired of seeing the Phillies, Pirates, Tigers and Blue Jays repeatedly.

As always, Go Yankees!

Have Heart, Will Travel…

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, The New York Post

Aaron Boone’s eventful week…

It is hard to say Aaron Boone’s procedure this week for a pacemaker was unexpected given he had open-heart surgery to replace his bicuspid aortic valve in 2009, but it was certainly a shock to hear the news this week that he needed to step away for the pacemaker. It is incredible how positive Boone was before this week’s procedure and after. It is a testament to the man. I certainly cannot say I would have handled the news as well as he did. I am glad he emerged from the procedure in good spirits and that all went as well as it could have.

With Boone back in the dugout today (weather-permitting), it sounds awfully quick to me. My uninformed, not medically educated, opinion is he should have taken his time. I would probably prefer to see him take at least a week off before returning to the grind of Spring Training. Carlos Mendoza, “Mendy”, is certainly capable of handling managerial duties while Boone is away. But, as we know, that’s not Boonie. There was no doubt he would be back as soon as he felt physically and mentally capable to do so. In other words, yesterday. I admire his attitude and the incredible role model he sets for his coaches and players, and it is a strong trait that, in combo with other strengths, makes him a good Major League manager. I hope the pressures of being an MLB manager do not wear on him. Managing the most storied franchise in baseball, in front of the most demanding and passionate fans in the Universe, comes with a wee bit of stress, one would think…on top of everything else (media scrutiny, ownership demands, family obligations, etc.).

So, Aaron, we are glad everything went well, and we are happy you are back. But, please, take it easy, we want you for the long haul. You have proven to us you have heart. We want it to keep beating for many championship-filled years. 

It was too bad Corey Kluber’s debut pitching performance for the Yankees was not televised, but looking at the photos, he has such an incredible presence on the mound. I remember hating how good he was as a member of the Cleveland Indians during those playoff years. If he can be that guy, I would love every minute of it. I thought James Paxton could be soft at times but that certainly will not be the case with Klubot.  Win or lose, he is going to battle hard.  I really hope he can make it back to his previous levels.  I will miss Masahiro Tanaka, but I am really looking forward to watching Kluber pitch for the Yankees over Paxton and J.A. Happ. I qualify this by saying I do respect Paxton and I would have supported his return, but I think Kluber, if healthy, can be a force a rotation without the first inning jitters Paxton routinely delivered last year.

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, The New York Post

Is it wrong that I like Derek Dietrich better than Tyler Wade? Okay, Dietrich cannot cover short like Wade, but otherwise, there is something about Dietrich and feel he is a gamer. Wade has good speed, yes, but I am hopeful Dietrich makes the team. I like Jay Bruce; however, I think Dietrich fits the team better. If Mikes Tauchman and/or Ford must go, so be it. I always hate it when the Yankees cut guys like Ji-Man Choi, Trevor Rosenthal, or Kirby Yates…only for those players to find success elsewhere but if Tauchman and Ford must go elsewhere to find success, it is what it is. I know, rosters are a numbers game, and you can only protect so many people. I cannot help it I am selfish and want all the best players on my team. 

Photo Credit: Randy Miller, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

I may not care about the man, but congrats to Domingo German for the strong performance in his return for the Yankees. He pitched two innings in yesterday’s 1-1 tie with the Detroit Tigers, giving up only one hit (a second inning double), no runs, and struck out four. It was the first game he has pitched for the Yankees since he was suspended late in the 2019 season for domestic violence. I believe everyone deserves a second chance but of course that is on German to show he is a changed man. Good pitching performances are meaningless if he has not changed.  Any repeat domestic violence episodes should be grounds for immediate termination (no tolerance policy at this point).

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

I was pleased to see former Boston Red Sock Jackie Bradley, Jr. sign with the Milwaukee Brewers. JBJ’s bat never scared me but the guy was an elite defender in center. I am glad he is no longer there (Fenway Park) to snag everything hit anywhere in his jurisdiction. The entire Red Sox outfield that won the World Series on October 28, 2018 is no more. Mookie Betts is counting the big bucks in Los Angeles, Andrew Benintendi is leading a Royal life, and JBJ is pulling up his mug for a cold one in Brew City.

Speaking of Boston, I will hate to see Adam Ottavino pitching for them, but I figure he is just there until July when the Red Sox unload him for prospects with free agency impending. 

As always, Go Yankees!