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!

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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!

Playing “Prevent Defense” in the MLB…

Photo Credit: John E Sokolowski, USA TODAY Sports

What’s more important? Rest or Home Field Advantage…

I really dislike losing winnable games in September. Actually, I hate it anytime but it seems to be magnified in the season’s final month of the regular season. I get the need to balance health while competing with the Houston Astros for best record in the American League, but the Yankees seem to be failing the former and jeopardizing the latter. Last night’s walk-off home run in the 12th inning by Bo Bichette allowed the lowly Toronto Blue Jays to overcome the Yankees for the second walk-off loss by the Pinstripers since last Tuesday night. The balk given up by Adam Ottavino which allowed the Jays to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh was a microcosm of the sloppy play lately.  

Photo Credit: AP

The loss, coupled with a win by the Astros, pulls Houston to within a game of the Yankees for best record and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Yankees are 97-52, while the Astros are 96-53, with an unlucky 13 games to play. If the Yankees fail in either the ALDS or ALCS, I know that I’ll look back on September with much frustration. It kind of feels like a NFL team playing prevent defense to protect a lead which inevitably fails (or so it seems). 

Injuries happen but there’s no doubt the Yankees need to revisit their practices and procedures given the plethora of injuries this year, setting an all-time high for guys on the injured list. I think the one recent injury that really bugs me is the latest groin injury suffered by Gary Sanchez which has potentially cost him the rest of the regular season. If the injury was suffered while catching or running out a hit, it’s one thing but to lose El Gary on a stolen base attempt is ridiculous. Kevin Kernan of The New York Post put it best this morning in his column when he says “Advice to Yankees: Never give Sanchez a green light again in his career.” Agreed! A stolen base attempt is such a high risk play. If the Yankees need Sanchez stealing bases to win games, we’re in trouble. There’s no way I would have had Sanchez running in that situation. I know I have the benefit of hindsight but I truly would have said that before the injury happened.  

I am excited Luis Severino will finally make his season debut next Tuesday when the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim visit the Bronx. Not quite sure what to expect as there will be rust despite the rehab appearances in the Minor Leagues but a healthy Sevy is very important for October. There’s no doubt he has the potential of having a ‘Mike Mussina in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS’ moment. I am equally excited about the impending return of Giancarlo Stanton. He is one guy that I hope the team can keep healthy for the duration of the season. With the losses of Edwin Encarnacion, Mike Tauchman, and Gary Sanchez, Stanton’s bat looms large. It would have even if those guys had stayed healthy. Stanton has had more than his share of critics but I know I am not one of them. I am glad Giancarlo Stanton is a Yankee and I look forward to his return. Jordan Montgomery is expected to make an appearance during Sunday’s game but I am not expecting much from him. I’ve seen some on Social Media act as though the return of Monty equals the return of an ace. Sorry, but he’s not in the same league as Severino. Sevy is the far more valuable pitcher.  Sevy is also not making a return from Tommy John surgery like Gumby is. I don’t expect #47 to be a factor until 2020 at the earliest despite whatever he is able to do this month. It would be a huge surprise for him to even be on the post-season roster.

Speaking of injuries, I really feel badly for the Milwaukee Brewers. One game out of the NL Wild Card chase after their loss last night, the Brewers suffered a larger loss earlier in the week when superstar Christian Yelich fractured his kneecap and won’t be back on a baseball field until next Spring. 

Photo Credit: Mark Brown, Getty Images

I know, Yankee fans are not going to feel sorry for injuries on other teams, but you can argue that losing a single player hurts the Brewers more than losing what? 30 players has hurt the Yankees. I know, that’s an absurd statement but still, there’s an element of truth to it. Yelich and Cody Bellinger of the Los Angeles Dodgers have battled for the potential NL Most Valuable Player Award all season. While Bellinger has been my favorite, I do hate to see Yelich lose out like this. He deserved better and so did the Brewers. I guess Tyler Austin will have to carry the Brew Crew now. Seriously, this does put an incredible amount of pressure on Mike Moustakas to be “the guy”.   

On the subject of injuries, I should also add how horrific it was to see the Blue Jays lose reliever Tim Mayza last night. After a misfired pitch behind the back of Didi Gregorius, who led off the top of the 10th inning, Mayza went to his knees in obvious pain and was escorted off the field. He’ll undergo a MRI to determine the extent of the injury but first (uneducated) guess is a ligament tear. I sincerely hope the injury is not as severe as it appears to be and that Mayza is able to return in 2020. Worst case scenario would mean Tommy John surgery and a lost season ahead. I really hope for Mayza’s sake it is not the case. He had been making the most of his opportunity in the Jays bullpen this season.

Photo Credit: Cole Burston, Getty Images

After the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders bowed out of the International League playoffs against the Tampa Bay Rays’ affiliate, it was great to see the Double A Trenton Thunder grab the Eastern League championship. The Thunder beat the Bowie Baysox, an affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles and a team managed by Zack Britton’s brother Buck, in four games to take the five-game championship series. Dellin Betances made an appearance in the deciding game, giving up a sixth inning homer in an inning of work. Luis Severino started and lost Game 2 of the series but it was more of a failure of team defense than Sevy’s pitches that cost them the game. First baseman Chris Gittens and pitchers Clarke Schmidt and Michael King, names we’ll be hearing at Yankee Stadium one day, delivered championship performances for Manager Pat Osborn’s team. Congrats to the Thunder for their highly successful season! 

Photo Credit: Kyle Franko, The Trentonian

Adonis Rosa, who was DFA’d this week when Ben Heller was moved from the 60-day IL to the active roster, cleared waivers and was sent outright to Triple A effectively ending his season but at least he remains in the organization. I guess the move didn’t really make a difference to me. There was no way Rosa was going to hold onto his valuable 40-man roster spot after the season and others like Ryan Dull, Cory Gearrin, and Tyler Lyons (who gave up Bichette’s walk-off HR last night) should be ex-Yankees when the big league club concludes its season and moves to protect certain high level prospects in advance of December’s Rule 5 Draft. I prefer a healthy Ben Heller to any of the aforementioned names and look forward to his 2020 contributions. Once the Yankees eliminate Clint Frazier in the off-season, Heller will be the last remaining piece from the Andrew Miller trade.

This has been a disappointing year for the Boston Red Sox but I was still somewhat surprised they fired President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski before season’s end. This action appears to have been inevitable since the Sox and owner John Henry have rebuffed attempts by Dombrowski to extend his contract since Spring Training. The Red Sox are presently ten games out of the AL Wild Card hunt and, barring a miracle, will not see October play. I’ve seen some say it would not be a surprise to see Dombrowski join the Yankees as a consultant given his close friendship with GM Brian Cashman. Nothing against Dombrowski but I don’t really want to see him join the Yankees. I am fearful the Yankees could lose Cashman’s chief lieutenant, Tim Naehring, a former Red Sock player, in Boston’s search for a replacement. But even if the Yankees lose Naehring, I wouldn’t want Dombrowski on my team. Naehring’s status as a candidate for Boston was significantly increased yesterday when the Arizona Diamondbacks extended their GM, Mike Hazen, a long-time Boston employee and the top speculated candidate for the vacancy.  

It’s starting to feel like Joe Girardi will be the next manager of the cross-town Mets or at least it seems that way to me. I always thought Girardi would end up in Chicago but that is not necessarily the case. If Cubs manager Joe Maddon steps down, it seems as though David Ross stands a better chance of getting the job than Girardi. It kind of sucks that we could be watching Girardi in a Mets uniform next season, managing former Yankee great Robinson Cano. I guess if Girardi does join the Mets, he’ll get a firsthand look at how differently the Wilpons run their organization in comparison to the Steinbrenner family. Good luck with that.

As always, Go Yankees!

Better Pitching Equals Better Results…

Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer, AP

Happ, turning back the clock, turns back the Sox…

I’ll admit that J.A. Happ has surprised me the last couple of starts. I had written the guy off a few weeks ago and I didn’t want him anywhere near a post-season start but I think I am starting to soften on that position. His terrific performance yesterday, holding the Boston Red Sox to two hits and no runs over 6 1/3 innings, was an illustration why the Yankees re-signed Happ in the off-season and not Lance Lynn. Behind his latest great start, the Yankees beat the Red Sox, 5-1, to even the  four-game series with two to play.  

Photo Credit: AP

Happ has historically been a good pitcher against the Red Sox which, as we know, is why the Yankees acquired him from the Toronto Blue Jays last summer. He may not be facing Boston this post-season but this is exactly the Happ we need to show up for the big games in a few weeks.  

It’s great that both Happ and James Paxton are rounding into form at the right time. The Tampa Bay Rays, currently 8 1/2 games back, are on fire right now. The Rays have won 9 of their last 10 games, and one of their top injured pitchers, Tyler Glasnow, was activated today to start later this afternoon. With last year’s Cy Young Award winner, Blake Snell, nearing his return from the Injured List, the Rays are getting reinforcements at exactly the right time for them. I don’t expect the Yankees to blow a 8 1/2 game lead but conversely, the Rays do not appear to be going away.  

Fortunately, for the Yankees, they’ll be getting some reinforcements with Luis Severino and Dellin Betances in the not-so-distant future. I am not sure how Sevy will used, but just having him on the pitching staff will be significant. Early on, it appeared he’d probably be used as either an opener or out of the bullpen, but lately, there appears to be some optimism he can start. Regardless of how Manager Aaron Boone decides to deploy him, the Yankees are a better team with Sevy on the active roster.  

Severino could make his 2019 season debut soon. After Sevy’s second rehab start for the Trenton Thunder (AA) on Friday, Boone told The New York Post, “Overall, it was pretty successful. We’ll talk about whether one more (rehab start) is beneficial or [if he will] come with us.” 

Photo Credit: Staton Rabin, AP

Betances needs more time in the minors before he’s ready but, if all goes well, we should see him within the next few weeks. A pending free agent, Betances has much to prove to ensure a big pay day after the season. Not that I think Betances needs added incentive to pitch well for the Yankees but it can’t hurt.

A setback by Aaron Hicks has seemed to stall any hopes he’ll be able to help the team anytime soon. Aaron Boone said yesterday that “He’s not feeling quite right.” It’s unfortunate but at least the Yankees have a reinvigorated Brett Gardner and the surprisingly successful Mike Tauchman to provide the necessary coverage in center field.  

Now if we could just get Giancarlo Stanton back, all would be good on this roster. Yes, I want Stanton in big moments next month. Regardless of how other guys are playing, Stanton remains a huge threat and I think he’ll have his defining Yankee moment next month. And no, it won’t be swinging and missing at a low outside pitch.  This guy remains a game-changer with one swing of his bat.  

Photo Credit: Mike Stobe, Getty Images

Was there really a report this week that the long-forgotten Jacoby Ellsbury has begun indoor activities? Now there’s a guy I never expect to wear the Pinstripes again. If he reaches full health after several years of inactivity, I think the Yankees should just cut bait and eat the remainder of his contract. There’s no scenario I want to see Ellsbury take a roster spot over more deserving guys. Troy Tulowitzski proved how effective an aging veteran can be after missing a few seasons. I wouldn’t expect any better from Ellsbury. At least Tulo showed some heart and still failed. There’s no apparent evidence Ellsbury has any heart.  

The season is over for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. The Tampa Bay Rays were able to grab scoreboard with their Triple A affiliate, the Durham Bulls. The Bulls swept the RailRiders in the opening round of the International League’s Governor’s Cup playoffs, pounding the RailRiders, 17-2, in Game 3 last night. I’m sure this how the Rays envision their future against the Yankees, as early as this October. Hopefully the big league team fares better against the Rays.

RailRiders reliever Ben Heller is expected to join the Yankees later today. Since he is not currently on the active Major League roster (60-day IL), he’ll need to be added to the 40-man roster before he can join the team. Personally, I’d cut Ryan Dull who has no future with this team beyond 2019.  Heller has been my dark-horse favorite for a role in the bullpen as he further distances himself from last year’s Tommy John surgery. I like the guy and I think he can be an effective arm among the quality relievers currently in the Yankees’ bullpen (unlike the much-travelled Dull). Heller was the only effective pitcher in yesterday’s blow-out loss to the Bulls with two innings of hitless/scoreless relief, a walk, and five strikeouts.  

Everyone expects Deivi Garcia to get the call but I don’t think he’s ready. His line yesterday against the Bulls was very forgettable. One inning, two hits (including a homer), four walks, and five runs. Bring the 20-year-old to Spring Training, but I wouldn’t call him up now. I am not basing that on yesterday’s performance but rather his overall time at Triple A. He finished 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA and 5.77 FIP.  He did have 45 strikeouts in 40.0 innings, but issued 20 free passes and hit four batters. I know the Yankees have a seemingly comfortable lead in the AL East but the team is still battling for best record in the AL (currently tied with the Houston Astros at 93-50). Every game matters. I think Garcia will have a long Major League career but let’s pump the brakes until he is truly ready.

Getting back to the Boston Red Sox, their season hangs on the balance. After last night’s loss, they are 7 games out in the AL Wild Card hunt. The Rays and the Oakland A’s hold the top two spots, with the Cleveland Indians hanging in, 1 1/2 games back. With just 20 games to play, the Red Sox literally need two of the three teams ahead of them to collapse. Maybe the Indians fade, but I don’t see the Rays or the A’s relinquishing their current positions. It will be a fun day when I hear the Red Sox have been eliminated from playoff contention. Until then, regardless of the odds, they have a chance. Hopefully the Yanks can take the next two games from Boston to help drive a few nails into their coffin.  

Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer, AP

Don’t look now but the Atlanta Braves could be making a move for the best record in Major League Baseball. All season, everyone has talked about how the Los Angeles Dodgers have run away with the NL but suddenly they have the Braves nipping at their heels. Entering play today, the Dodgers are 92-52 after losing two in a row to the San Francisco Giants. Meanwhile, the Braves, who have won 9 consecutive games, are 89-54. They are within striking distance of Yankees, Astros and Dodgers for MLB’s best record. They say the playoffs are not about the best team but the team that gets hot at the right moment. At this point, you’d have to say that the Rays and Braves are Baseball’s hottest teams. Much can change between now and October, but these two teams are intent on making noise in the coming weeks. Time for Team Pinstripes to put ‘the pedal to the metal’. 

The Yankees have announced a few moves today but none featured Ben Heller. I remain optimistic he’ll get the call, but here’s the day’s transaction per the Yankees:

    • Reinstated Gio Urshela from the 10-day IL
    • Returned Thairo Estrada from rehab and reinstated him from the 10-day IL
    • Recalled Kyle Higashioka and Breyvic Valera from the RailRiders

I am glad to see Urshela back on the field. DJ LeMahieu does a great job at third, but having flexibility with him, helps the team. These moves were simple paper transactions, whereas, Heller will require some maneuvering so perhaps there will be more transactions announced later today. For Heller’s sake, I hope so. 

Photo Credit: Rich Gagnon, AP

I was surprised to see former Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda receive a 60-game ban yesterday for taking a diuretic. Pineda, who has been the Twins’ best pitcher the last few weeks, said in a statement that he took an over-the-counter medication to help control his weight, but it contained hydrochlorothiazide, a diuretic that can mask other substances. The ban was initially 80 games, but Pineda was able to get it reduced to 60 games on appeal after making a compelling case he was not attempting to mask performance-enhancing drugs. I don’t think Pineda had an intent to deceive but it’s an unfortunate situation for the one-time Yank and it certainly hurts Minnesota’s chances for October success.

As always, Go Yankees!

The Sweet Sound of Victory…

Photo Credit: Mary Altaffer, AP

As John Sterling said, “David John makes long gone!”…

Finally, the Yankees solved the A’s even if it took eleven innings and a few innings of bases juiced with stranded Oakland runners (the A’s left a total 15 men on base, which seems like a 2018 Yankees stat).

Sure, the Yankees should have called for replay of Matt Chapman’s “double” to left that temporarily gave the A’s a 3-2 lead in the seventh inning. TV replay clearly showed the ball landed outside the left field foul line even if by a fraction of an inch. The entirety of the ball’s imprint in the dirt was on the other side of the chalk line. After the game, Manager Aaron Boone acknowledged he should have asked for replay but the speed of the moment and some uncertainty caused the missed opportunity. Nevertheless, as the saying goes, all’s well that ends well.

DJ LeMahieu’s lead-off first pitch home run to right in the bottom of the 11th inning gave the Yankees the win, 4-3, and snapped the Yankees’ losing streak to the A’s.  The 11th inning happened with such lightning speed. No sooner than I had let out a groan when the A’s Matt Olson led off the top of the frame with a single to center, a quick double play and a pop out ended the inning for Oakland before I could even exhale and set the stage for The Machine’s rapid fire ending.

Living in Denver, I can remember DJ’s bottom of the ninth, two-out two-run come-from-behind home run as the Colorado Rockies defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks, 5-4, on September 12, 2018. Clearly, big moments do not phase this man. I am sure that more than a few Rockies fans were wishing the Big Fundy was wearing purple yesterday.

Photo Credit: Andy Cross, The Denver Post

The Yankees scored all of their runs on solo homers. Two, his 31st and 32nd, by the  so-called ‘fat and lazy’ Gary Sanchez (leaving him one short of his own team record) and a game-tying dinger by Aaron Judge in the bottom of the eighth which set the stage for LeMahieu’s late game heroics. The four home runs in the game gave the Yankees 74 homers for the month, setting a new MLB record for most team homers in a single month. For the record, I do not think El Gary is fat and lazy and he’s had my support from the start of his career.

I was worried the Yankees had lost another player to a critical injury when Zack Britton left the game in the eighth inning with a slight limp. With a ‘glass is half empty’ view, I immediately thought there might be issues with the achilles he tore a couple of years ago. Fortunately, it was reported after the game to be nothing more than cramps and no further tests are scheduled. Whew! We need a healthy Britton in the March to October. Losing Britton would have placed greater urgency on getting Dellin Betances ready to pitch for the first time this year.

Photo Credit: AP

The win gives the Yankees (89-48) the best record in MLB. The Houston Astros lost, 6-4 to the Toronto Blue Jays, to fall a game behind the Yanks. Their record is 88-49.  The Los Angeles Dodgers, 6-5 losers to the Arizona Diamondbacks, dropped to 88-50.

I was optimistic after the game that the Yankees could win this series against the A’s today, but then realized the starting pitcher will be J.A. Happ.  Oh well. I really wish I had more confidence in Happ but unfortunately any confidence has left the building. My only hope is that Happ proves me wrong. Oakland’s Sean Manea will make his 2019 season debut after recovering from left shoulder arthroscopic surgery last September.

He’s back! Clint Frazier has returned to Yankee Stadium and will be in the Yankees lineup today at DH. I am glad to see Frazier back in Pinstripes. A couple of months ago, I thought he had worn them for the final time. I am hopeful he takes advantage of the latest opportunity to show that he belongs here. With rosters expanding today, the Yankees also recalled RHPs Ryan Dull and Chance Adams. They also moved RHP David Hale to the 60-day IL and signed LHP Tyler Lyons to a MLB contract and selected him from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. I am glad to see the former Cardinals reliever get a shot. Poor Adams has to take a chance on a new number since the last two he has worn are taken. Jonathan Loaisiga has 43 and Mike Mussina “lookalike” Cory Gearrin has Moose’s number 35. I’d call Gearrin ‘Mussina’s Clone’ but that would imply he has the same set of skills which couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s too bad that today, a day Mike Mussina will be honored for his induction into MLB’s Hall of Fame, his number will be active and worn by a journeyman reliever. I love Don Mattingly but I’ve long believed the Yankees should have the same policy as the Los Angeles Dodgers to only retire numbers for Hall of Fame players. Moose now fits that criteria. Well, I guess that I should preface that by saying I am glad nobody will ever wear 15 again.

Last year, the Yankees set the Major League record for most team home runs with 267 long balls. Sadly, the record was erased yesterday when the Minnesota Twins hit six home runs. Mitch Garver’s second bomb of the game, in the ninth inning of Minnesota’s 10-7 loss to the Detroit Tigers, gave them 268. The Yankees are within striking distance, with 254 home runs, but time is running out to make up ground on the 14 dinger shortage. It really makes you wonder where the Yankees would be if health had been their friend in 2019. No doubt a healthy Giancarlo Stanton could have been the difference maker.

The Yankees made a minor trade yesterday when they sent Triple A first baseman Ryan McBroom to the Kansas City Royals for international signing bonus pool money and a player to be named later or cash considerations. I realize that McBroom was buried behind more talented players and at 27, he’s not really a prospect anymore. But I liked the guy and he was tearing up Triple A pitching this season with a batting line of .315/.402/.574 and 146 wRC+ (26 home runs and 87 RBIs). The Yankees acquired McBroom from the Toronto Blue Jays on July 23, 2017 for Robert Refsnyder. I’m happy for McBroom. I was hopeful he’d get a shot with the Yankees but it was not meant to be. With rosters expanding today, he should get a shot to make his Major League debut this month with the Royals. Or at least I hope he does. He’s earned the opportunity.

Photo Credit: Tim Dougherty, The Free Lance-Star

I didn’t see how much international signing bonus pool money the Yankees acquired but it’s too bad it came too late to save the signing of talented international outfield prospect Jhon Diaz, who grew tired of waiting for the Yankees to make room for his   $1.4 million signing bonus and signed with AL East rival Tampa Bay. Of the international prospects linked to the Yankees, Diaz was second behind only outfielder Jasson Dominguez who was the head of the class and recipient of most of the year’s allocated bonus pool money.

Okay, let’s hope our favorite team will HAPPen to find victory today.

As always, Go Yankees!

The Failure to Get A’s…

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

Exam against top AL Wild Card challenger not going well…

Just when I was starting to feel good about the Yankees again after the recent three-game sweep by the A’s in Oakland, the Yankees get clobbered by the A’s again in the Bronx, falling 8-2 on Friday night. I was hoping the Yankees would sweep the A’s as payback but it was not to be. Now, I can only hope the Yankees take two of three.

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

I know, it’s not the end of the World. The Yankees haven’t been ousted from the playoffs. They haven’t lost their grip on the AL East. They still hold the best record in the AL East (88-48), tied with the Houston Astros, and the teams share the best record in MLB overall, with the Los Angeles Dodgers (88-49) a 1/2 game back. They won five of six games on the road in Los Angeles and Seattle. The Tampa Bay Rays, despite their win last night over the Wild Card leading Cleveland Indians, remain 10 games behind the AL East leaders.

I keep hearing people say the Yankees are better than the A’s and they’ll beat Oakland when it matters in October.  Maybe so, but a few wins now would be much appreciated. The A’s are getting into the Yankees’ heads and it’s time to make a statement. Hopefully, the statement is made today with 17-game winner Domingo German taking the mound. Homer “Freakin’” Bailey will get the chance to see if he can dominate the Yankees in two consecutive games for the A’s. Hopefully he’ll be exposed for the fraud he is, and he’ll see multiple pitches deposited into the outfield bleachers later today.

I don’t know what to think about CC Sabathia. I know some on Social Media were declaring the end of the road for the future Hall of Famer when he was pulled after three innings due to pain in the troublesome right knee. He apparently re-aggravated the knee issue last weekend in Los Angeles while batting. Maybe it’s premature to declare it the end, but the days are numbered and any extended time on the Injured List at this point would make it very hard for a comeback. I think we’ll see Sabathia again in a few weeks (he was placed on the 10-day Injured List today) but unfortunately it does not excite me.

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

I’d love for Sabathia to have the tremendous walk off the field moment like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera before him, but sadly, there’s a chance it does not happen. With a 5-8 record, 4.93 ERA and 5.97 FIP in 100 1/3 innings pitched, it is unlikely Sabathia will play a meaningful role in October even if they can solve the pain in his knee.

I wasn’t surprised when the Yankees placed third baseman Gio Urshela on the 10-day Injured List on Friday in order to activate first baseman Luke Voit. With the bothersome groin injury, Urshela was going to need a few days off at the very least. I had thought the Yankees might want until tomorrow, when rosters expand, to activate Voit but once Urshula was pulled from the final game in Seattle, it seemed that a trip to the Injured List was inevitable. Frankly, I like it because it forces Urshela to rest and recover. We need him at full strength in a month so I’d rather play it very cautious with him now. Manager Aaron Boone said as much yesterday, “…just the time of year it is, he’s a little banged up anyway, so it’s probably the best thing for him and for us to do this now and make sure this doesn’t become a lingering issue.” Agreed. Third base is in good hands with DJ LeMahieu so I am not worried. Still, the placement of Urshela on the Injured List gave the Yankees the Major League record for most players added to the list in a single season…not exactly a record that I held aspirations for.

With the growing questions about CC Sabathia and J.A. Happ, I am getting a little excited for the returns of Jordan Montgomery and Luis Severino. I always temper my expectations for Monty because he’s trying to come back from Tommy John surgery (I don’t expect him to be at his best until 2020) and he’s never been more than a back end of the rotation type of starter but that’s exactly what the Yankees could use right now. I doubt he’ll start any games for the Yankees this late in the year, but he can provide a couple of effective innings here and there when he is potentially ready to activated within the next few weeks.  Same with Luis Severino, although he retains his ace status. Might not be stretched out enough to start, but he’ll be fire out of the bullpen and I mean that in a great, non-Tyler Clippard, kind of way. Dellin Betances is also moving closer to a return so if the Yankees get all three of these guys back by mid-September, life will truly be good. I’ll gladly buy into the claims that their returns compensate for the failure to add at the trading deadline. Add in the returns of Edwin Encarnacion and Giancarlo Stanton next month and I’ll be feeling good about the team’s chances in October. The playoffs are a crap shoot anyway, so no team is unbeatable. Not the Astros, not the Dodgers, and contrary to current illusion, not the A’s.

Photo Credit: Elsa, Getty Images

I’ve been a critic of Clint Frazier and I had fully expected him to be dealt at the trading deadline, but I am looking forward to his promotion to the Major League roster, most likely tomorrow when rosters expand to 40 men for the final time (next year, the cap will be 28 on September 1st). I am not sure how much Frazier will play but I do think he has worked hard on his defense and is deserving of another opportunity to prove himself. Maybe he just becomes an observer with a great view from the bench, but I’d love to see him excel when he does get the chance to play the field. I am also looking forward to the Major League debut of temporary reliever Deivi Garcia. Watching Cory Gearrin pitch last night, I couldn’t help but think how much more I would have valued Garcia in that spot. Maybe he’s not ready for MLB hitters yet but we’ll soon find out. Everyone has to be a MLB beginner at some point in their careers.

As much as I would love to declare the Boston Red Sox are dead, the fact is they are not. The Red Sox have won three games in a row, including a 15-inning thriller last night against the Angels in Anaheim, and with a record of 73-62, they are just 5 1/2 games out of the Wild Card chase.

Photo Credit: Mark J Terrill, AP

It’s tough to make up those games with just a month left but it’s not impossible. Until Boston is mathematically eliminated, I will not dance on their grave. I continue to hold some fear of the team despite their lackluster 2019 season. They remain a dangerous team that could do damage in a short series, even with their pitching limitations. I expect the Red Sox to be ready to play when the Yankees go to Fenway Park for a four-game series starting next Friday. Boston’s season might depend on those games so no doubt they’ll be playing like a wounded dog. A sweep by the Yankees or losing three of four could be a death knell for them.

It was horrifying this week to learn about the tragedy that befell Tampa Bay Rays prospect Blake Bivens. His wife, young infant son, and mother-in-law were killed in a triple murder on Tuesday by his wife’s 18-year-old brother. I hadn’t heard the news until Bivens made his social media post in the aftermath of the slayings.

 

There have been so many incidents of senseless tragedy and loss of life this year. I am sickened by all of it, and have a very heavy heart for Blake Bivens. I cannot imagine anything worse that losing the loves of your life in such an awful way. I hope he can find comfort in the coming days, weeks and years, but it’s hard to imagine that he’ll ever be able to overcome this. I can only hope that he is able to find some peace and the ability to move forward. So very sad.

As always, Go Yankees!

The Power of Pitching and Power…

Photo Credit: Mark J Terrill, Associated Press

Yanks End 4-Game Skid…

As Michael Kay of the YES Network said after the game, the Yankees used pitching and power, after three lackluster games in Oakland, to halt their four-game losing streak in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. But then again, we didn’t need to hear Michael say those words. The arm of James Paxton and the bats of Didi Gregorius, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres and others spoke very loudly during the game, which the Yankees won, 10-2.

Photo Credit: Robert Gauthier, Los Angeles Times

I have to admit I was a little shocked when Paxton had a clean 1-2-3 inning to start the game. I have grown to really despise First Inning Paxton regardless of how much I still like the pitcher (I do). But for this game, First Inning Pax looked nothing like previous versions. Maybe someone told him it was the second inning and that he must have blacked out the first. Seriously, whatever it took, I am glad that Paxton stepped up his game against the best team in the National League. We need Paxton to be successful in October and this was a great step in the right direction.

Photo Credit: Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG

Thanks to Paxton, the Yankees didn’t have to dip too deeply into the bullpen.  Excellent job by Nestor Cortes, Jr to finish off the game with a big lead. The big boys, Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino, and Chad Green, enjoyed a night of rest to ready them for the weekend.

Cody Bellinger leads the National League with 42 home runs (tied for the MLB lead with Mike Trout), but on this night, he was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. With no offense to former Yank Clay Bellinger, I am glad his son was unable to launch a Belli-Bomb in the first game of the series. I want Bellinger to stay ahead of Christian Yelich in the race to NL MVP but I am okay if he wants to take the next two games off.

Photo Credit: John McCoy, Getty Images

After his first couple of at-bats, I certainly didn’t think Didi Gregorius had a multi-homer night in store for him. His two home runs which included a grand salami in the fifth and five RBIs ensured the the Dodgers would not be making one of their patented late inning walk-offs this game.

Photo Credit: Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG

Congratulations to Gary Sanchez for his 100th career home run. His third inning shot off Hyun-Jin Ryu (a tremendous lower body power shot that brought his knee to the ground) allowed him to reach one hundred faster than any player not named Ryan Howard. For those worried about El Gary, I think he’s doing just fine. I’ve never doubted the player, even through those difficult slumps. I am glad he’s the Yankee catcher and there isn’t anyone that I’d rather have. Well, I’d take 1970’s Thurman Munson but that’s not an option.

Photo Credit: Mark J Terrill, Associated Press

I was a little bummed the Yankees fared so poorly in Oakland. West Coast games are tough since they start so late, and then to have every result end in defeat is harder to take. I jumped off the J.A. Happ bandwagon long ago. He was the guy I wanted the Yankees to replace at the trading deadline. I say this knowing how ineffective CC Sabathia has been at times. I’d rather have Sabathia in the rotation as the fifth starter over Happ, but Happ has pitched so poorly, he is the rotation’s weakest link, moving Sabathia up in the pecking order which admittedly is “not what you want”. I am really hoping that Luis Severino can come back next month to at least form a multi-inning opener tandem with Happ. With another year committed to Happ, I really hope the Yankees can find a way to move him this off-season. I’d be fearful of Happ reaching the milestones to trigger a third year in his contract if he stays in the rotation.

I am not a big fan of the Players Weekend uniforms with the white and black themes. It reminds me of the old Spy vs Spy comics.

I actually liked the refusal of Jon Lester to wear a black cap, instead donning the traditional Cubs hat in their home game against the Washington Nationals. The pitchers wearing the home white uniforms had to wear black caps instead of the white ones worn by the rest of the players to ensure hitters had no difficulty with seeing pitches. Lester’s action was adopted by his entire team who wore the traditional Cubs caps. That was/is much better than those funky white and black caps, in my opinion. The Dodgers, as I’ve said before, are my favorite NL team, and I would have preferred the classic Dodger white with blue lettered and red numbered uniforms against the traditional Yankee road grays. I like the weekend of player individuality but this year’s theme is not a favorite.

Photo Credit: Stacey Wescott, The Chicago Tribune

I love Dodger Stadium so I really enjoy these games at Chavez Ravine. When I lived in Los Angeles, I lived near Dodger Stadium (two miles away) so I frequently drove by the stadium when not there for games. I certainly hold affection for the stadium and the area despite my love of the Yankees.

It was a surprise yesterday to see the Yankees release former top prospect RHP Domingo Acevedo when they claimed Seattle Mariners reliever Cory Gearrin.

Photo Credit: Dean Rutz, The Seattle Times

I know, the bloom is off Acevedo as a prized prospect, but I thought there are other guys who were better candidates to go (like Ryan Dull or, in my opinion, Luis Cessa). I still have hope Acevedo can become a late-blooming relief option but it appears that he’ll do it elsewhere unless he re-signs a minor league deal with the Yankees. Whatever happens, I wish him the best of luck. It’s kind of funny that Gearrin has become a Yankee because of former Yankee prospect Justus Sheffield. Gearrin was the casualty when the Mariners decided to recall Top Sheff to the Majors this week. I don’t really see a long-term future in the Yankees’ organization for Gearrin. He’ll no doubt be one of the casualties when the Yankees begin to activate some of the guys off the 60-day Injured List, like Luis Severino, Dellin Betances, Giancarlo Stanton and Jacoby Ellsbury. Ha-ha, the last name was just thrown on there to see if you are awake! Ellsbury is never coming back or at least I hope not.

Speaking of Sheffield, he made his Major League starting debut last night against the Toronto Blue Jays but received a no-decision in the M’s 7-4 victory. He went four innings, throwing 86 pitches, giving up seven hits and three runs. He both walked and struck out three. His first inning was Paxton-like, 37 pitches and two runs but he persevered. Hopefully for him, his next start goes better. I’d like to see him fulfill his promise even if he doesn’t wear the Pinstripes anymore (so long as he doesn’t do it against the Yankees).

Photo Credit: Dean Rutz, The Seattle Times

The Yankees should soon see the return of first baseman Luke Voit. Voit has begun his minor league rehab assignment and is expected to be activated in time for next Friday’s game against the Oakland A’s at Yankee Stadium. Voit made his first appearance last night with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, going 0-for-3, with a walk and run scored, in the RailRiders’ 11-4 victory over the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Hopefully Voit can begin ramping up his play (i.e., recapture his timing) over the next few days so that he can make a good contribution to the Yankees again when he returns. He is a vital part of this team’s potential post-season success.

The calendar page soon turns to the final month of the regular season so it’s nearing time to finish off those pesky Tampa Bay Rays to win the AL East and ensure a one-game do-or-die Wild Card game will not be played the Bronx this year. Although I didn’t experience it firsthand, the long ago story of the collapse of the 1964 Philadelphia Phillies (the “Phoid of ’64’”) has stuck with me since I first heard about it as a child. The Phillies looked like a World Series team through the summer of ’64, and held a 5 1/2 game lead over the Cincinnati Reds on September 1st. They went 12-9 for the month and held a 6 1/2 game lead with 12 games to play. But when the regular season reached its end, the Phillies were a game behind the St Louis Cardinals and their season was over. While I don’t expect the Yankees to have that type of collapse, I can’t shake the belief it can happen because it has. There’s no doubt a four-game losing streak can leave me thinking the worst, like many Yankee fans, so I am just glad the Yankees took care of business last night on a night that both the Rays and the distant Boston Red Sox also won. Today is a wonderful day to start a winning streak.

As always, Go Yankees!

It HAPPened One Night…

Photo Credit: Mark Blinch, Getty Images

More often than I would like…

I guess it was inevitable the Yankees would eventually lose, but I like ten-game winning streaks and the team fell one victory short of “my” goal. J.A. Happ, as usual this season, was “happ-less” in Friday night’s 8-2 loss to his former team, the Toronto Blue Jays. Oh well, today is a new day. The Yankees are back at Rogers Centre this afternoon for the third game of a four-game set and the series tied. They’ll send Chad Green, Opener, to the mound, to defend the Yankees’ 9-0 record in games that he opens to hopefully start a new winning streak.

I think my biggest disappointment of the July trading deadline was on display last night. I really wanted the Yankees to replace J.A. Happ in the starting rotation. I know, it was never going to happen and we’re stuck with Happ, good or bad, at least for the duration of this year. With another $17 million owed him next season, and an option that could trigger a third year, the Yankees will have to part with some money if they hope to move Happ in the off-season but they should. At 36, he is not going to get any better. Assuming that Jordan Montgomery is able to come back to be a reliable fifth starter, any pitching upgrade in the off-season should take Happ’s spot. Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino will be back, and Domingo German, with 15 wins, has ensured his place in the rotation. So, with Monty back in the fold and taking the soon-to-be retired CC Sabathia’s spot, the only spot that is potentially open belongs to Happ. I can’t look back and say the Yankees should have signed Lance Lynn instead of Happ since I didn’t feel that way at the time, but in retrospect, it certainly would have been the better move. Or signing Charlie Morton would have made a world of sense at the time and he’s certainly over-performed on the two-year, $30 million deal ($4 million less than Happ) he was given by the Tampa Bay Rays. I am still surprised the Houston Astros made no move to re-sign either him or Dallas Keuchel (regardless of how poorly the latter has pitched in Atlanta so far).

As it stands right now, Happ should not get a sniff of a post-season start. There’s no way I’d trust him when the chips are on the table. Give him long relief or leave him off the playoff roster but I do not want to see his name as a scheduled starting pitcher come October.

Okay, I’ll let my dislike of Happ go…for now.

As expected, the Yankees activated catcher Gary Sanchez off the Injured List for today’s game. I thought Austin Romine and Kyle Higashioka did outstanding job s while El Gary was away, but still, I’d rather have Gary on the field and in the lineup. I am not expecting to see his monster home runs right away, but hopefully he’s 100% healthy and can start ramping up his play over the next few games. I am sure his bat is salivating at the prospect of facing Orioles pitching next week. If there was hope the Yankees would re-sign Romine in the off-season (in my mind), it was lost with how well Ro has played in El Gary’s absence. He deserves more than a backup gig and there are plenty of teams that could use someone like him.  I can easily see Romine going home to Southern CA to play for the Los Angeles Angels.  The familiarity is certainly there with Angels GM Billy Eppler. My guess is Kyle Higashioka will be the backup catcher when Spring Training rolls around next year. But this year, with El Gary back on the active roster, Higgy heads back to Pennsylvania.

The surprise transaction move today was the placement of reliever Jonathan Holder on the Injured List with right shoulder inflammation. LHP Stephen Tarpley was recalled from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre was recalled to take Holder’s place. At this point, I am really hoping that Jonathan Loáisiga is ready soon to take Tarpley’s spot.

There was such mixed reaction this week when it was announced that the Yankees and the Chicago White Sox would play a game in Dyersville, Iowa on August 13, 2020 near the spot of the field from the movie Field of Dreams. Immediately, fans were upset about the dimensions of the existing playing field from the movie without realizing there are plans for a new temporary stadium to be built next to the movie grounds that would provide normalized dimensions for the playing field and seating capacity for 8,000.

Credit: MLB

I like the idea. As a native Iowan, I never dreamed the Yankees would play on my native soil. It’s not like Des Moines, the largest Iowa city, is ever going to get a professional team. I grew up about 150 miles from Dyersville in a similar rural community. I hate to think about how much those tickets will cost and what a snarled mess Dyersville will be next August. I know Iowans, we all pile into the car to go check things out even if we don’t have tickets.  So Dyersville is not only going to be filled by visitors holding tickets to see the game, the gawkers will be out in full force too. I think I’ll just stick with the FOX telecast. I wonder how much gate revenue the Chicago White Sox will lose by giving up a home game for this attraction and how much MLB is compensating them for the loss. I am sure the Yankees are among the highest revenue attractions at Guaranteed Rate Field. As cool as it would be to see the Yankees wear their famed pinstripes in Iowa, the White Sox are considered the home team and they probably deserve to wear their pinstripes, especially since Field of Dreams featured former Chicago White Sox player Shoeless Joe Jackson. I wouldn’t be a fan of both teams wearing pinstripes.

Anyway, it should be a fun August day next summer regardless of where you watch the game from. It would be cool if Kevin Costner could throw out the first pitch.

With no idea when Luke Voit will return (he hasn’t resumed baseball activities and potential surgery remains on the table), I wonder when first baseman/DH Ryan McBroom gets his opportunity. At 27, he is no longer a prospect but has been very strong at Triple A this year. McBroom accounted for the RailRiders’ only runs in yesterday’s 10-2 loss to the Gwinnett Stripers with a two-run double in the eighth inning. On the year, he is batting .320/.398/.559 with .958 OPS. He has 19 home runs, 24 doubles, and 47 RBIs. If he is ever going to get his shot with the Yankees, this is it. There probably comes a time when a minor league player wonders what more he has to do to prove himself and McBroom is probably there. I know I still think of McBroom as simply the guy the Yankees got for Robert Refsnyder, but I’d like to see him get a taste of the Big Leagues. I’d prefer McBroom over a reunion signing of former Giant/Twin/Yankee Tyler Austin.

There was a part of me that hoped the Yankees would sign free agent second baseman Joe Panik who was recently been cut loose by the Giants, but he took the chance for more playing time with the New York Mets. I know, he’s been dreadful this year and lost his job when the Giants acquired Scooter Gennett from the Cincinnati Reds, but I guess I was optimistic that he’d display some of the promise he once held by returning to his native New York City on a contending team. I guess we’ll see if that happens with the Mets. Robinson Cano will not be returning to the Mets this year with his torn hammy (even if he seems to think so) which created the opportunity for the Mets to push the Panik button (sorry, I had to do it even if that terminology has been overused in recent days).

Former Yankee (and, ugh, Red Sock) Mark Melancon has been named as the closer for the Atlanta Braves. He was considered one of the top closers when he signed a free agent deal with the San Francisco Giants a couple of years ago, but injuries have derailed him. I thought former Yankee and Tiger Shane Greene would get the job, but he’s been a little underwhelming in Hot-lanta. On the bright side, playing behind Melancon should mean hope since it’s questionable if Melancon can remain healthy. Greene needs to make the necessary adjustments to give the Braves the same confidence the Tigers showed in him. Greene was one of the arms that I had hoped the Yankees would acquire at the trading deadline. Despite his struggles, I’d still prefer him over Stephen Tarpley any day.

I am trying to contain my enthusiasm but it was a positive to see Luis Severino throw a 23-pitch bullpen session yesterday. He’s still weeks away from a return and any setback could derail him for the season, but I am cautiously optimistic that he’ll be an available arm in September. Regardless of the role he’ll play this year, I want him to be an active part of this year’s team and not just an observer with an awesome dugout view of the game.

As always, Go Yankees!

The Baseball Season Did Not End July 31st…

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac, Getty Images

Destination: World Series Championship is alive and well…

Admittedly, I was very disappointed with the trading deadline. I felt it was a missed opportunity to provide enhancements for the team. The Houston Astros are a very good team from top to bottom, and they are led by a very smart manager. I know I will not underestimate them nor will I compare them to a rotation-strong Tiger team that couldn’t win when it mattered. Nevertheless, Houston did not secure a guarantee of October success with their moves.

I do wish I had better confidence with the return the injured Yankee players. It’s being reported that Luis Severino will finally return to the mound next Friday as he begins his rehab back to the Major Leagues for possibly September. Honestly, he is a setback away from not pitching for the club at all this year. I am trying to keep my expectations low, but at best, he appears to be help for the bullpen barring no further setbacks. There does not appear to be sufficient time to get him stretched out for a starting role, or if he comes back to start, he’ll be like one of the starting pitchers who miss Spring Training and then struggle mightily. Still, I’d rather have Sevy on the post-season roster than not.

Photo Credit: Severino40 on Instagram

Maybe Dellin Betances can come back and recapture his 2018 effectiveness. It does not exactly feel like a sure bet. I probably have more confidence in Dellin at this point than Sevy but we’ll see. The Yankees really need both if they are to win the 2019 World Series. It’s not impossible but it would clearly help.

I am not even sure what to think about Giancarlo Stanton. If he hasn’t even begun baseball activities, I don’t see his return anytime soon. And when he does come back, there is the inevitable struggle to recapture his timing. In other words, we’re looking at some painful at-bats until he becomes the Giancarlo we all know and love.

It’s not great news the Yankees could be without Luke Voit for up to six weeks, a certainty if he does have surgery for his sports hernia. But at least the Yankees have Edwin Encarnacion and DJ LeMahieu to cover first base, and Mike Ford waiting in the wings at Scranton for support. When I saw the San Francisco Giants had designated Tyler Austin for assignment yesterday, my immediate thought was potential help for the Yankees. But I think that was just a sentimental feeling. While I think some team with a higher priority claim will take a shot at the former Yank, I don’t care for Austin’s splits and although he has some power, I think the Yankees have better options in-house. I really thought a trade for Justin Smoak at the trading deadline made sense, but if you truly believe the injured guys will be back, there’s not necessarily any long term room on the roster.

Oh well, the Yankees didn’t get the needed help for the rotation. It sucks but it is what it is. Time for the starters we do have to step it up. Domingo German has certainly earned his standing among the top five. After allowing the first-inning  two-run homer to JD Martinez last night, James Paxton pitched like we know he can in holding the Red Sox to two hits and those two runs over six innings. This is the Pax we need down the stretch. If only he can overcome those first inning jitters. First innings with Paxton are becoming very painful to watch. I still have hope that Paxton can come up big in October. Despite his struggles, I do not believe this to be a ‘Sonny Gray-like’ situation. I think Pax will have his huge moments in Pinstripes. The talent and the desire are there. Pax just needs to find the answer within himself and I am confident he will.

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

J.A. Happ continues to concern me. I think it was his spot in the rotation that I wanted to see upgraded. His three-year contract is starting to worry me a bit. Technically, it is a two-year deal with an option, but the third year vests with 165 innings pitched or 27 games started in 2020, which, if he stays in the rotation, should be easily achievable. Frankly, I hope the Yankees can find a way to move Happ in the off-season and find a better option, but they’ll have to send a few Benjamin Franklins with him to find a taker.  But for now, Happ needs to find what he had last year at this time. Currently out on paternity leave, hopefully the newly born Happ will help J.A.’s rebirth as an effective Yankees starter.

With CC Sabathia on the Injured List for his knee, a deadline starter would have been ideal but I guess we’ll have to continue with Chad Green, Opener. Green and Nestor Cortes Jr have proven to be a reliable tandem so it’s not the end of the World they have to provide the necessary support. When CC returns, I am not going to go against him. He is a crafty veteran and the final starts of his career will have a very strong impact on him in terms of the desire to go out on his own terms. I am confident he’ll have his magical moment before this is said and done.

It hasn’t been the best of seasons for Masahiro Tanaka, but like the great Andy Pettitte, Masa has a way of raising the bar in October. I have no doubt he’ll be very effective when it matters, even if he continues to give up those annoying obligatory dingers.

For those who think Deivi Garcia is the next Great Savior, my take is not this year. While it has been said he’d be in the bullpen if he does get the call up in September, I doubt he makes a significant difference until 2020 at the earliest. I am not resting any hopes on him. The kid is only 20 and he’s struggled with the promotion to Triple A. I don’t blame him for those struggles. They were inevitable. Rare is the player who can immediately master every level of the minor leagues from the start. I think he’ll be a very good pitcher one day, just not this year. At least not at the big league level. I have no doubt he’ll be frustrating International League hitters by season’s end.

I’ve always liked Aroldis Chapman, but if he opts out of his contract in the off-season, let him go. I am not interested in a renegotiation of his contract. I know Yankee fans either love or hate Zach Britton, but he’d be my choice to take over the closing duties. Not sure if the Yankees will re-sign Dellin Betances, but he’s better suited for setup. He’d be the only other name I’d consider for closer even though I’ve never been a fan of using him in that role despite his limited success. I also think Adam Ottavino and Tommy Kahnle are better in their current roles. The Colorado Rockies tried Otto as closer a couple of years ago without success, but I realize that was before Otto rediscovered himself in his makeshift NYC pitching studio. Still, Otto’s propensity for walks when he doesn’t have his control does not play well in the ninth inning.

I keep reading there’s no way the Yankees sign Gerrit Cole in the off-season and perhaps that’s true. There will be teams like the Los Angeles Angels that will be desperate for starting pitching, particularly for someone with Cole’s resume. I think any chance Houston would re-sign Cole was eliminated when they acquired Zach Greinke and his contract. So, if anything, it gives me some hope the Yankees will be contenders for Cole’s services. We’ll see. Hopefully he doesn’t end the Yankees’ season before we get there.

I was very appreciative of the first inning grand slam by Gleyber Torres last night to answer the home run by JD Martinez and fortunately it held up to give the Yankees a 4-2 win over the Boston Red Sox. Last year at this time, the Yankees started a four-game series in Boston on the exact same date (August 2nd, the anniversary of the death of Yankee great Thurman Munson). The Yankees entered the series in much better position than the Red Sox are in now, trailing the then-AL East leaders by only 5 1/2 games. Boston swept the four-game series which effectively ended the Yankees’ hopes of winning the division. I am really hoping the Yankees can do the same to the Red Sox this year. I remember the defeated feeling I had last year after that series. It’s a feeling the Boston fans should experience this year, in my opinion. I am not really expecting a sweep but taking 3 of 4, especially after last weekend’s disaster in Boston, would be huge. It would also leave the Red Sox severely wounded with their playoff aspirations and three good teams ahead of them in the AL Wild Card hunt.

Since the Tampa Bay Rays had the night off, the Yankees were able to increase their AL East lead to 7 1/2 games. The Red Sox are back to 11 1/2 games behind our favorite team. Too bad, so sad. I’d really enjoy it if the Red Sox players have to make non-baseball plans for October. Time to go for the jugular and race to the AL East title crown. If it happens, I will be so glad the Yankees do not have to play a one-game ‘do or die’ playoff this year. But no Boston baseball in October would almost be as exciting.

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

The Yankees play two today. The afternoon game will pit Domingo German, searching for his 14th win, against Chris Sale. It’s been a very disappointing year for Boston’s ace so hopefully the disappointment continues today. In the night cap, Chad Green-Opener will face lefty Brian Johnson. Johnson was activated off the Injured List earlier today. He has been out since June 27th with an intestinal issue. A sweep by the Yankees would obviously leave the entire Red Sox team with intestinal issues.

Before I go and despite the disappointment experienced a few days ago, I am glad the Trading Deadline has come and gone. I was tired of the endless speculation and the ridiculous trade proposals in the minds of many Yankee fans. Next year, I’ll be in favor of moving the trade deadline to August 15th to help teams better decide if they are buyers or sellers. However, on August 3, 2019, this is our team and this is THE team that can take us to the promised land. To hell with the Astros and anybody else, the Yankees have the players capable of delivering champagne in the final MLB game of the year. Let’s do this.

Go Yankees!