Not So Fun Deep in the Heart of Texas…

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Richard Rodriguez)

Yanks lose first series since April…

With leads of 4-0 and later 10-5, you do not really expect to lose, but thanks to multiple pitching failures, the Yankees allowed the Texas Rangers to take the final game, 12-10, and win the series, two games to one. It was the first series the Yankees have lost since the Boston Red Sox took two of three from the Yankees on April 10th through 12th.

I keep hearing “don’t blame Sabathia, he is part of the solution, not the problem” but realistically, he’ll be 38 in a couple of months and he is not exactly a physical specimen. Since he held the Cleveland Indians to three hits and no runs over six innings on May 4th, he has averaged slightly under five innings per start (three starts). He has given up 15 runs (13 earned) in 13 1/3 innings pitched including 4 home runs and 7 walks. If CC wants to be part of the solution, he needs to start pitching better. My current confidence level in Sabathia is nowhere near where it was last year.

Yesterday’s game was a microcosm of the problems with both the starting pitching and the bullpen. Losing the 4-0 lead was bad enough, but there was no reason to blow the subsequent five-run lead. David Robertson did not look good. I have been a huge D-Rob fan but he’s pitching his way out of the Bronx right now. If these struggles continue throughout the season, there’s no doubt the Yankees will let him walk away at the end of the year. Of course, it’s all about cause and effect. Sabathia’s early departures put added and unnecessary pressure on the bullpen.

I am not sure why Aaron Boone tries to get more than one inning out of Dellin Betances. It seems like the second inning for Betances never works out in our favor regardless of how sharp he looks in the first inning of relief. Overall, I’ve liked the job Boone has done, but he hasn’t shown the ability to work the bullpen like Joe Girardi did. Girardi had his critics about his handling of the pen but the results were much better or at least I had more confidence in Joe’s ability. I think Boonie will get there and I am certainly not trying to go down a ‘we should have stayed with Joe’ path. I support Boone and like him as the Yankees manager. I was proud of his use of the f-bomb a few times the other night when he was thrown out of his first game as manager.

There were positives in the Texas series.  Namely, Gleyber Torres is a stud. There is literally nothing that the guy cannot do. He may not be the speediest guy on the team but I swear he wears an “S” on his shirt under the uniform.

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It was hard to watch Robinson Cano leave after the 2013 season via free agency. He had been the Yankees best player and it was great to have such a strong player at second base. Then we had to deal with a series of interim players like Brian Roberts and Stephen Drew.  With no disrespect to Starlin Castro, Torres gives us our first legitimate young superstar at the position since Cano left.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Richard Rodriguez)

Giancarlo Stanton’s numbers may be coming around, but I still trust Aaron Judge more.

Neil Walker keeps showing why he should not be the sacrificial lamb when Greg Bird returns. While I’d like the first base pairing of Bird and Tyler Austin, I still feel that it makes more sense to option to Austin to Triple A.  He’ll be needed again at some point.

Glad to see that Didi Gregorius is starting to warm up again. His slump was the worst of his career following his All-World performance and Player of the Month honors in April. The Yankees need Didi if they expect to contend in October.

I try to keep up with the Yankees farm system but I have to say that I was shocked when reliever Ryan Bollinger was added to the 25-man roster yesterday. My first reaction was ‘who?’. I hadn’t really paid much attention to his minor league free agent signing or the stellar work he has done for the Trenton Thunder this year. Since he is not really a “prospect” anymore at the stage of his career (he is 27 after all), I just viewed him as depth for the minor leagues. Honestly, I do not expect him to stay in the Bronx long, not with the impending returns of Tommy Kahnle and Adam Warren. I like what I’ve seen out of A.J. Cole and want him to stick around so it would seem Bollinger will be the odd man out in a few days and a potential DFA candidate if the Yankees need his 40-man roster spot. As for Cole, I’d probably give him a spot start over Domingo German to see what he can do.

Maybe it was because the Yankees were in Dallas, but the past week has brought so much speculation of Cole Hamels to the Yankees at the trading deadline. I do not see it. I like Hamels and I wouldn’t squawk about his presence on the roster.  There are a few guys in the starting rotation that he’d leapfrog. But, realistically, it makes no sense to me. Unless the Rangers are willing to pay significant dollars to pay down his contract, the Yankees would be responsible for the prorated portion of his $22.5 million 2018 salary. The contract has an option for $20 million in 2019. The option becomes guaranteed if Hamels has 400 IP in 2017-18 (he is presently at 206 2/3 innings so he’s unlikely to reach the milestone). The buyout for 2019 is $6 million.  Hamels also has a limited no trade clause that includes the Yankees. So, in order to get the Rangers to pay any dollars toward the contract, the Yankees would have to up the ante in terms of premium prospects. There would be more dollars involved to get Hamels to waive the no-trade. I don’t see how a few months of Hamels would justify the elimination of the majority of the cap space under the luxury tax threshold and the quality prospects that would be lost. Sure, if the Yankees win the World Series as a result, it would be worth it but I just don’t see Hamels as the difference-maker.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Joe Robbins)

I keep hoping the Seattle Mariners start losing now that they’ve lost Robinson Cano and Dee Gordon, but all they’ve done since is win. The M’s are currently riding a five-game winning streak and sit just two games behind the AL West leading Houston Astros. My desire to see the M’s lose is to open their willingness to move James Paxton. However, if they keep winning, there’s no chance.

The best possibility for the starting rotation might be our own Justus Sheffield. He came off the disabled list to pitch four innings of scoreless three-hit ball against the Pawtucket Red Sox yesterday. He struck out five and walked only one batter. Tommy Kahnle may have gotten the win in the 7-1 victory but it was a great limited outing for Sheffield’s return. I personally don’t think we’ll see Sheffield in the Bronx until August or September (if at all this year) but the power to accelerate the time table is certainly within his control. I probably shouldn’t read too much into Sheffield’s fine performance.  Chance Adams threw a one-hitter last week to go with ten strikeouts (to raise my excitement level), yet he followed it up with a stinker against Pawtucket on Tuesday (five runs and three walks in three innings of work).

With last night’s disappointing loss, the Yankees have fallen 1 ½ games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East. Boston wraps up their series with the Tampa Bay Rays today, so they could hold a two-game advantage entering play on Friday. The first half schedule for the Red Sox has been so generous for them.

For the Yankees, I am glad to see the road trip end. With the washout of the games in Washington, they finished the trip with a 3-3 record despite hitting three home runs or more in five straight games for the first time in franchise history. The road trip also included extended flight delays and sleeping at airports. Their flight last night was delayed for mechanical reasons and they didn’t get off the ground this morning until about 5:30 am Eastern. Fortunately, today is an off day, but they’ve certainly dealt with more than their share of adversity this trip. Hopefully, the Yankees will be rested and ready to play when they meet the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Yankee Stadium tomorrow night.

Go Yankees!

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Sonny Gray, We Found You!…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Ed Zurga)

Yanks win eighth consecutive Series…

Backed by uncharacteristic run support (at least for him), Sonny Gray finally pitched on Sunday like the guy who was an ace in Oakland. We’ve seen few glimpses of that guy since he became a Yankee last July. I know, it was against one of the worst teams in the American League but it was a great Sonny Gray start. For a game anyway, this warrants a ‘Sonny Gray DOES NOT suck’ from me.  

As you know, I am quick to criticize Gray so I owe it to him to recognize a wonderful performance. Gray (3-3) pitched eight innings, holding the Kansas City Royals to four hits and a single run. He didn’t allow the run until the eighth inning when he was starting to tire. He walked a batter and struck out five in the 10-1 victory. The four homers, including two by Tyler Austin, were fantastic but there was no doubt Gray was the star of this game.

A.J. Cole, in a rare appearance, pitched a clean ninth inning. Sure, he had a big lead but ask the Miami Marlins about holding a big lead in the ninth inning. They had a 9-4 advantage Sunday against the Atlanta Braves (a team many are starting to liken to the 2017 Yankees) and had Brad Ziegler on the mound to close it out. Six runs later, the Braves walked off the field a winner. So, I try to never underestimate a mop up role like the one Cole faced. 

Now for the home runs. Tyler Austin is making a very convincing case to stay with the Major League club despite the impending return of Greg Bird. I’ve felt all along Austin is the most susceptible for a demotion to Triple A to make room for Bird. Even with his two home runs on Sunday, I still think he’ll be the odd man out since he has options remaining. The Yankees aren’t getting rid of Ronald Torreyes and I don’t see them cutting bait with Neil Walker. Randy Miller of NJ Advance Media speculated this morning that the Yankees will DFA Walker and trade him for a minor leaguer to use the remaining balance of his $4 million contract at the trading deadline (in addition to the space they already have) to open a spot for Bird. I suppose he may be right but I have liked the versatility Walker brings and he has hit better of late. But I have to admit that a tandem of Bird-Austin at first base is a bit scary (in a good way).    

Photo Credit: The Kansas City Star (John Sleezer)

Miguel Andujar and Austin Romine tacked on solo homers in the ninth which did more to help their personal statistics than the team’s result.

Yankees Twitter was aghast before the game when the lineup was posted. Many had expected to see Gary Sanchez at DH, Didi Gregorius at short, and Clint Frazier in left. Instead, Giancarlo Stanton was the DH, Brett Gardner in left, and Ronald Torreyes was the shortstop for the second day in a row. I understood the move with Sir Didi who is mired in a 1-for-45 slump. Nothing against the great Brett Gardner, but I would have preferred to see Red Thunder in left. But at the end of the day, it didn’t matter. The Yankees cranked out fourteen hits with Aaron Boone’s lineup to power the offense.  

Nice job by Austin Romine. During the off-season, so many Yankees fans (maybe even me) wanted the Yankees to sign Alex Avila to replace Romine as the backup catcher. Yesterday, Romine had perhaps his greatest game as a Yankee. He was 3-for-5 with two RBI’s. He had a run-scoring single in the fourth inning in addition to the ninth inning dinger. It’s worth noting that Romine is batting .326 in 48 plate appearances with the homer and nine RBI’s, while Avila is only batting .132 with two homers and four RBI’s in nearly twice as many plate appearances and has opened the door for more playing time for former Yankee John Ryan Murphy with the Snakes.   

It was great to see the Yankees dominate two consecutive games against the lowly Royals after Friday night’s disappointing loss. It had been a very tough week for the Yankees with the rainouts in Washington, D.C. It was not surprising they played sluggishly in their only loss in the Royals series, but I was glad to see that it lasted only one game before they were back in expected form.  

The lone disappointment yesterday was the option of outfielder Clint Frazier to Triple A after the game. I know, it was inevitable. It was a numbers game and Frazier is better served by playing every day for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. He’ll head to Pennsylvania and await the next call to Yankee Stadium. It’s not what you want (to borrow Joe Girardi’s line), but Frazier is only an injury away from returning. 

The Yankees now head to Dallas/Fort Worth to face the Texas Rangers. The Rangers have under-performed this year (18-30) but they are generally a handful for the Yankees. The first two games of the series feature Yankees Past and what could be Yankees Future. Today, the Yankees will face a former Yankee in the ancient Bartolo Colon while Tuesday features 2009 World Series foe Cole Hamels, whose name has been mentioned as a possible trading deadline candidate for the Yankees. There are other trade candidates I’d like to see over Hamels, but he is a proven veteran arm. After the Yankees finish the three game series in Texas, they’ll head back to the Bronx to meet up with Shohei Ohtani and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in a series that starts Friday night.

David Hale just keeps coming back like a bad penny. I really thought we’d seen the last of Hale when he was designated for assignment for the second time this year by the Yankees. When he elected free agency after his most recent DFA, I felt sure he’d go elsewhere. It was not to be as Hale signed another minor league deal with the Yankees and will head to Scranton, PA to join the starting rotation for the RailRiders. His addition led to the release of former Yankees prospect Daniel Camarena. I had hoped for better results from Camarena who had been re-acquired from the Chicago Cubs earlier this year after signing a minor league free agent contract with the Cubs in the off-season. But a 2-3 record and 5.08 ERA (44 hits and 20 walks in 39 innings) led to Camarena’s second exit from the organization. I wish him the best with his next opportunity.  It’s unfortunate he was unable to realize his dream in Pinstripes.

Speaking of the RailRiders starting rotation, their latest addition (besides Hale) is prospect Erik Swanson. Swanson’s name hasn’t really been mentioned much since he was acquired in the trade that sent Carlos Beltran to the Texas Rangers a couple of seasons ago. Dillon Tate was the more highly regarded name in the trade, but Swanson is the minor league pitcher of the moment. The guy has been sensational in Double A this year. The 24-year-old righty started six games for the Trenton Thunder, winning five with no defeats. He has given up a paltry two earned runs in 40 2/3 innings (0.44 ERA) while striking out 52. He has only allowed 12 walks. The superb performance led to his recent promotion to Triple A. In an organization with so many talented young prospects, Swanson has illuminated his name.

Photo Credit: Martin Griff, via Pinstriped Prospects

The Yankees did so well with the 2016 trades of Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, they are generally recognized as the trades that highlight the genius of GM Brian Cashman. Nevertheless, the returns for Beltran (namely Swanson and Tate) and Brian McCann (Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman, who helped bring Giancarlo Stanton to New York) were spectacular.  Cashman and Company were certainly well prepared when they made those “under-the-radar” trades that opened roster space for younger, more talented players.

Unfortunately, the Boston Red Sox keep winning so the Yankees and Sox remain tied atop the AL East although the Yankees (30-13) continue to hold a slight advantage in winning percentage.  New York is at .698 while the Red Sox (32-15) are .681.  Boston is off today so the Yankees could pick up a half-game to take sole possession of first place or they could lose to fall into second place.  With 119 games to play, I suppose it does not really matter either way in the grand scheme of things but I always prefer to see the Red Sox in the rear view mirror.

Credit: Frank Galasso Illustration

Go Yankees!

False Start by the Pinstripers…

Photo Credit: TNS (John Sleezer)

Yanks fall to Royals…

My fear after nearly a week of no Yankees baseball is that they’d go ‘thud’ against one of the worst teams in the American League. Sadly, my fear became reality when the Yankees lost Friday night against the lowly Kansas City Royals, 5-2. It was a close game but, at least for me, it never felt like the Yankees were in it.  For Royals manager Ned Yost, it was his 1,100th career managerial victory.

Photo Credit: TNS (John Sleezer)

It’s been a tough week for the Yankees. They played their way to a 3-3 tie with the Washington Nationals through 5 1/2 innings on Tuesday, only to have the game suspended for rain. The rain wiped out the resumption of the suspended game and the regularly scheduled one the next day, leaving the Yankees to spend the night at Washington Dulles International Airport due to the unavailability of hotel accommodations.  They had an off day on Thursday but it didn’t help. There were no extra base hits to be found in Yankee bats last night. Eight singles equated to two runs and a loss. The legendary Jake Junis (who?) gets the win, and CC Sabathia gets saddled with his first loss of the young season.

When an uncharacteristic error was made by Gleyber Torres in the first inning which allowed the Royals to pick up the game’s first run, it felt like it was not going to be the Yankees’ night.

Photo Credit: TNS (John Sleezer)

I guess if there was any solace about the loss, the Boston Red Sox lost too. Boston fell 7-4 to Alex Cobb and the Baltimore Orioles so the Red Sox and Yankees remain tied atop of the AL East standings. The Red Sox have two more wins than the Yankees (30 to 28), but the Yankees have the slight advantage in winning percentage (.683 to .667) thanks to two fewer losses (13 to 15). It would have been nice for the Yankees to have won to create a game advantage but today is a new day. On paper, Luis Severino (6-1, 2.14 ERA) versus Danny Duffy (1-5, 6.51 ERA) looks like a mismatch. Of course, those tend to be the ones we struggle with the most.

The Didi Gregorius for MVP talk has subsided with his 1-for-45 slide. Hopefully, he’ll rediscover his stroke while the team is in Kansas City. April’s Player of the Month has been MIA in May.

Photo Credit: New York Daily News (Howard Simmons)

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player on the DL incur so many consecutive injuries while out as Jacoby DL’s-bury. The latest ailment for Ellsbury seems to be a back injury. I’ve forgotten the original reason he was placed on the DL or the variety of injuries that have subsequently sidelined him. Maybe I am just looking forward to the day the Steinbrenner family says enough is enough and they pull the trigger to cut bait despite the cost. The guy is nearly untradeable (IDK, is that a word or was it just made up for Ellsbury?). At this point, even if the Yankees back up a Brink’s truck to haul oodles of cash to another team to take the disabled veteran, there would be no takers. The true travesty would be for Ellsbury to actually get healthy and take a 25-man roster spot from a more deserving player. I am ready for Ellsbury’s post-Yankees career.

Speaking of the DL, a good Yankees center fielder is lost until August. Top prospect Estevan Florial (technically, Gleyber Torres is the top prospect but since he’s in the Major Leagues to stay and will soon lose prospect status, Florial is the top prospect by default) will be out for a few months after it was determined that he’ll need surgery on his hamate bone (right hand, unlike the illustration below).

Hopefully all goes well with Florial’s surgery and recovery and this is not a roadblock or delay for his eventual arrival in the Bronx within the next few years.

Another injured player made a triumphant return yesterday. Greg Bird, on rehab assignment with Double-A Trenton, homered off Bowie Baysox reliever Reid Love in the eighth inning of a 2-0 Thunder win. There’s no doubt Bird will soon be back with the big league club and he’ll be a welcome addition. With no offense to Tyler Austin or Neil Walker, I can’t wait to see Bird manning first base for the Bombers once again.

Photo Credit: New York Post (Corey Sipkin)

Billy McKinney also had two hits for the Thunder as he works his way back too, but the roster crunch will send him to Scranton, PA when he is ready.

Given how long it has been since Dellin Betances last pitched, you just know that he is going to implode the next time out. Betances last threw an inning of relief in the 6-2 win over the Oakland A’s on May 13th. I always cringe whenever there are extended delays between appearances for Betances.

In a non-baseball related topic, here is a shameless plug for a new TV series that will air on FX Network this fall, Mayans MC.

Mayans MC stars J.D. Pardo, Emilio Rivera and Edward James Olmos. The show was created by Kurt Sutter and Elgin James, and is set in the post-Jax Teller Sons of Anarchy universe. The story focuses on the struggles of Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes (Pardo), a prospect in the Mayan MC Santo Padre charter on the California/Mexico border.  According to the official storyline, EZ is the gift son of a proud Latino family, who American dream was snuffed out by cartel violence. Now, his need for vengeance drives him toward a life he never intended and can never escape. Rivera reprises his SOA role as Marcus Alvarez, the President of the Mayans MC Oakland charter and the MC’s National President. Olmos plays EZ’s father, Felipe Reyes.  Michael Irby is featured as Obispo “Bishop” Losa, President of the Santo Padre charter. I’ve been tracking this show for several years now and it is exciting that it will finally be part of the Fall TV lineup.

Hopefully today brings the more resilient Yankees team we are familiar with as they’ve shaken off the rust from the long delay between games. The Yankees have proven they can beat the best teams in the American League. Now, they just need to prove they can beat the worst ones.

Go Yankees!

The Washington Washout…

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mitchell Layton)

Rain sweeps the Yankees away to Kansas City…

I guess we have Tyler Austin to thank for the last couple of days not being a total loss. Without his heroics (3 RBI’s), the Yankees would have lost Tuesday’s game which was ultimately suspended after 5 ½ innings with the score tied at 3. The Nats would have won the game if Austin hadn’t tied the score with the sac fly after his earlier home run. When the game is resumed, the Yankees will have nine outs to twelve for the Nationals so the odds favor the Nats. Nevertheless, credit goes to Austin for helping to avert a rain-shortened loss.

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Photo Credit: AP (Pablo Martinez Monsivais) via BTA

With rain sweeping away the resumption of the suspended game and Wednesday night’s scheduled game, the Yankees have a couple of days off until they take the field in Kansas City tomorrow night for the first game of a three game weekend series.

I saw a good tweet on Twitter earlier this week that angrily asked why Robinson Cano got suspended for 80 games but the Yankees were only suspended for one. I see no association between Cano’s situation and the Yankees (he hasn’t worn pinstripes since 2013) but it was a good comeback for a day that saw both Cano and the Yankees get suspended (obviously for quite different reasons).

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

As for Cano, I am disappointed. I don’t know all the facts of his case, but I am glad the Yankees didn’t try to match the huge offer the Seattle Mariners made to Cano after the 2013 season. I was not in favor of a ten year deal then, and this incident only reaffirms what can go wrong with inflated extended deals (I know, we have our own ‘Jacoby Ellsbury’ to bear). I always liked Robbie even if I did get frustrated at times with his lack of hustle. But as we stand here today, I’d much rather have Gleyber Torres as the Yankees starting second baseman than Robinson Cano, even if he hadn’t fractured a bone in his hand or was not currently serving a suspension for banned substances. The only injustice I saw about Cano’s suspension is he gets to begin serving it while he is on the disabled list. So, the actual playing time he’ll miss as a result of the 80-game suspension will be much less since the bulk of the time will be spent recovering and rehabbing from the surgery on his hand. I am glad he was ruled ineligible for post-season play, should the Mariners make the playoffs. It’s very convenient (and fortunate) for the Mariners that they have another All-Star second baseman on the roster with Dee Gordon who was serving as a first-time starting center fielder for the M’s prior to Cano’s injury and subsequent suspension.  The M’s will still, no doubt, miss Cano in their lineup.

I do hope for Cano’s sake, he is able to put this behind him and he has no further acts of indiscretion for the duration of his playing career. I will continue to root for and support the former Yankee.

Poor David Hale. He’s been DFA’d three times this year (twice by the Yankees and once by the Minnesota Twins). Honestly, I am not really sure why the Yankees picked him up a second time. I’d rather see him cut this time rather than going to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on an outright assignment if he clears waivers. There’s nothing special in Hale’s arm and I’d rather see a young, hungry pitcher get his opportunity. I wish Hale the best in his future non-Yankee endeavors.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

The latest DFA for Hale cleared a temporary spot for Clint Frazier. It was speculated his latest time with the big league club would be limited to the Nationals series (to provide an extra bat off the bench for the National League-style of play) but with the rainouts, Frazier traveled with the team to KC and will hopefully get some time in the outfield with Aaron Judge and company before he gets the inevitable call to head back to Pennsylvania. It would be great if Red Thunder and his bat make it very difficult to demote him. Admittedly, I am growing tired of Aaron Hicks in center. Hicks may be the better defender and the more “true” center fielder, but I think Frazier has the better promise and potential for the now and in the future. Hicks is too inconsistent for me. I only wish that Estevan Florial was more advanced in his development and maturity. Dude, hurry up and age, will ya??!!

To sidetrack for a moment, I do have to say I’d gladly put Frazier in a trade package if it meant the Yankees could pry LHP Madison Bumgarner from the San Francisco Giants. I know Mad Bum has suffered some fluke injuries in recent years and has as much familiarity with the DL as Jacoby Ellsbury and Clayton Kershaw but when healthy, he’s a gamer. I’d love to roll with Luis Severino and Bumgarner as my top two pitchers heading into October. However, if Frazier is not traded, I hope he gets his chance to stay with the Pinstripes even if it comes at the expense of Aaron Hicks and Jacoby Ellsbury.

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Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Shanna Lockwood)

Back to the Yankees and Nationals, the makeup day will be Monday, June 18th at 5:05 pm Eastern. It is going to make for a very long night for the Yankees with at least 12 innings of baseball. They finish a series against the Tampa Bay Rays in the Bronx on the preceding Sunday afternoon, and then after the game and a half on Monday night in the Nation’s Capital, they quickly head back to Yankee Stadium to begin a series against the Cano-less Mariners the next day.

Despite the washout in Washington, the Yankees (28-12) are currently a ½ game ahead of the Boston Red Sox (29-14) in the AL East Standings.  Boston plays tonight at Fenway Park against the lowly Baltimore Orioles so it’s possible the Yankees and Red Sox could be tied entering play tomorrow. But then again, the spineless David Price is on the mound for the Sox so I’ll gladly take my chances with Greg Bird’s high school buddy Kevin Gausman and the O’s.

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Photo Credit: The Aurora Sentinel (Heather Longway)

I really feel bad for the Los Angeles Dodgers and their fans. I am a known Dodgers sympathizer (they’re my NL team) and this has been an awful start to the year for the defending National League champs. Entering the season, many had them making the World Series for the second year in a row, but after another loss to the Miami Marlins last night, the Dodgers are 16-26 and have fallen into last place in the NL West.  Well, technically they are tied with the San Diego Padres, but the Padres have the slight advantage in winning percentage.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jennifer Stewart)

Injuries have been tough but there were so many parallels between the Yankees and the Dodgers at the start of the season. Both are big market teams trying to reset luxury tax penalties with strong, young teams. But the similarities end there. The Dodgers had to let valuable role players like Brandon Morrow and Tony Watson walk in the off-season to keep payroll down and they’ve lost superstar players like Corey Seager (out for the year) and Clayton Kershaw to injury. This is Justin Turner’s first week back after his DL stint to start the year. The Dodgers face a lost season or they need to quickly spend to bring in strong reinforcements if they hope to salvage the season. The Dodgers have a strong farm system (okay, not as strong as the Yankees) but it is not ready to help.  They’re already leaning on young guys like Walker Buehler in the starting rotation.  Manny Machado’s name keeps coming up as an option for the Dodger Blue but he’d probably eliminate any chance of the Dodgers staying under the luxury tax threshold. Plus, they’d have to find a position for him if they have any hopes of signing him after the season since Seager will be back next year to reclaim shortstop. The Dodgers situation shows how much luck plays into strategy when it comes to navigating the treacherous waters of payroll. The Yankees and Dodgers are clearly trending in opposite directions.

I have tickets to two upcoming Dodgers games. Sounds like I’ll probably have a more enjoyable time watching the out of town scoreboard to see how the Yankees are doing.

To the Yankees and all of us fans, enjoy your day off. We look forward to watching the road team step up to the plate at Kaufman Stadium on Friday night.

Go Yankees!

Boston’s Loss is Our Gain…

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Photo Credit: Boston Herald (Christopher Evans)

Yankees Take Sole Possession of First Place…

The Yankees had the day off on Monday and captured sole possession of first place in the American League East while they are resting. Sweet. Credit to Oakland’s Sean Manaea, sporting Sonny Gray’s old number, for keeping the Red Sox offense in check.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Maddie Meyer)

Rafael Devers got a seventh inning home run off Manaea and J.D. Martinez took the A’s bullpen deep, but after nine innings of play, Boston had one less run than Oakland. Too bad, so sad. Sucks to be Boston. Greatest start in Red Sox history and all they have to show for it is second place. Get used to it, RSN.

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Now, the Yankees have to hold their thin ½ game AL East lead while playing one of the best teams in the National League. I know, the Washington Nationals currently trail both the Atlanta Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies, but there’s no doubt the Nats (24-18) will be firmly entrenched on top of the NL East by the time October rolls around. Atlanta is a nice story and of course no one is going to root against former Yankees bench coach (now Phillies bench coach) Rob Thomson but it is inevitable the Braves and Phillies will fall hard at some point.

With the Yankees in the Nation’s Capital to face the Nationals, it brings the topic of Bryce Harper to the forefront. I like Giancarlo Stanton, don’t get me wrong, but realistically, given a choice, I’d prefer Harper. At the moment, there’s not a great difference in their stats.

Harper:  .236/.400/.543, .943 OPS, 13 HR, 30 RBI

Stanton:  .252/.339/.516, .855 OPS, 10 HR, 26 RBI

I feel that the best AL pitchers in October will expose the flaws in Stanton’s swing, whereas Harper seems to have the “it” quality for playoff superstardom. There are no stats to back up those assumptions on my part (total gut feelings) and honestly I am fine moving forward with Stanton for the long-term.  I am just saying that if I had my chance, I’d take the 25 year old Harper over the 28 year old Stanton and age has nothing to do with it.

I am not really trying to rip Stanton and I have not been dissatisfied with his short time in Pinstripes despite some struggles. I suppose it’s not outside of the realm of possibility the Yankees could feature an outfield of Aaron Judge, Harper and Stanton, but that would have been more likely under George Steinbrenner than Hal Steinbrenner.
The way the season is going for the Los Angeles Dodgers (16-24), they’ll be looking to make some impactful moves in the off-season. I am sure they’ll be big game hunting for Harper themselves, but if I was GM Brian Cashman, I’d find a way to move LA-native Stanton to Chavez Ravine and bring Harper to New York.

While I would want Harper on my team, the realist in me knows the off-season money will be better spent on the pitching staff. I think Patrick Corbin would make for a very nice lefty replacement for CC Sabathia. CC’s been a great Yankee, but the end of the line is near. The downside to spending big on pitching is the fragile overall health of top pitchers (case in point, Clayton Kershaw, who seems to enjoy the DL as much as Jacoby Ellsbury). The Yankees will face an ace that could have been theirs tomorrow evening when Max Scherzer takes the hill for the Nats against Sabathia. When Scherzer signed his free agent deal with the Nationals in January 2015, the Yankees had been one of the early favorites to sign the former Tiger ace. If George Steinbrenner was still alive, I am convinced Scherzer would have been a Yankee today.

Perhaps the Yankees make a big pitching move in July. After a couple of promising starts, Sonny Gray Sucks! returned after his dismal performance against his former team last Friday night. I keep hoping that Gray can recapture the elite pitcher status he held while wearing green and gold but so far, he has seemed like just another guy that couldn’t handle New York. My feelings about Gray are starting to turn Javier Vazquez-like. I loved what Vazquez did as a member of the Montreal Expos, but his time in Pinstripes (both times) was very pedestrian.  Every start, I keep hoping Gray will prove me wrong. But we’re just a couple months shy of a year since his acquisition and I’ve not been impressed. During the recent A’s series, it was weird listening to veteran A’s beat reporter Susan Slusser talk about how great Gray pitched for Oakland.  We haven’t seen that guy.

I am not really trying to bash the Yankees today but it seems kind of like I have. Please accept my apology. They hold the best record in Major League Baseball and have a cohesive team that simply refuses to lose. Things haven’t gone perfectly but the same can be said for all other MLB teams. Some teams with playoff aspirations (like the Dodgers) probably wish they could take a mulligan and start the season over. The Yankees have no such thoughts.  28-12, .700 winning percentage, first place in the AL East, and of course the best record in MLB. They overcame the blistering 17-2 start by the Boston Red Sox. I think Yankees fans will gladly take the current state of MLB’s greatest franchise.  So, don’t mind me while I dream of what Bryce Harper might look like in Pinstripes.  It’s just a dream that will never come to fruition.

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That’s fine.  Let’s go win a World Series.

Go Yankees!

Waking Up in First Place…

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Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com (John Munson)

Yankees win latest series with Boston…

We have often heard it in recent days. On April 20th, the Yankees were 7 ½ games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East after Boston’s blazing 17-2 start at the beginning of the year. The Yankees, then 9-9, were getting ready to embark on the most brutal stretch of their schedule, struggling to stay above .500, with multiple series ahead against division leaders and winning teams.

Yet, here we are on May 10th, and the Yankees lead the AL East by one game with the best record in Major League Baseball. I guess I was worried for nothing, thanks to the twenty-five men on the Yankees roster who have contributed to the legendary winning run the team is currently on. Well, make that twenty-four, reliever A.J. Cole has just been along for the ride.

First place, how sweet it is…

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It is amazing the last Yankees team to win 17 of 18 games were the 1953 Yankees which included a young Baby Bomber named Mickey Mantle. That’s pretty good company for the 2018 Yankees. I wasn’t alive then but I hear the 1950’s Yankees were pretty good.

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The Yankees are spoiling second baseman Gleyber Torres. He’s quickly learning losing is unacceptable in the Bronx, having experienced only one loss in his first seventeen games. The Yankees are supposed to win every day, right?

Last year, it seemed like the Yankees were consistently losing the close games. Yet, this year, no deficit (it seems) has been too much unless we’re playing the lowly Baltimore Orioles. When Red Sox manager Alex Cora brought his closer, Craig Kimbrel, into last night’s game with five outs to go, it did not feel as intimidating as it had in years past. When Brett Gardner laced the triple to recapture the lead for the Yankees, it wasn’t a surprise to me. It felt like this team was going to find a way to victory. The two run homer by Aaron Judge off Kimbrel was icing on the cake. Loved seeing Astros closer Ken Giles blow the recent game against the Yankees, but watching Kimbrel lose was better even if he didn’t slug himself coming off the mound.

This run won’t last forever (will it?) but I am certainly enjoying it while it lasts. Back in early April, I felt we’d have a good litmus test on the Yankees by May 10th. Well, I’d say they aced the exam and have proven they are among the very best in Major League Baseball. Win or lose today, the team’s accomplishments have far exceeded my expectations.

Going into the Boston series, I had hoped the Yankees would win at least two of three so that they’d have at least a share of the AL East when the Red Sox headed for the airport. However, with two wins in the bag, let’s “Get Greedy” and go for the sweep!

I am not going to get too high. It is only mid-May and there’s so much baseball yet to be played before anything is decided. Gleyber Torres, sadly, will one day learn it is indeed possible to lose two or three games (or…yikes!…more) in a row at the MLB level. I am not going to dismiss the Red Sox. They are a very good team that’s not going away. But then again, neither are we. It should be a great summer of baseball ahead.

I did have to check out Boston newspapers today. The Boston Globe featured the Boston Celtics on their Sports page. The Celtics won their Eastern Conference semi-finals matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers and will advance to the Conference Finals against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. I suppose that’s big news in Boston but it is funny how the Red Sox became a secondary thought in the Globe.

Credit to Giancarlo Stanton who had two homers in the first game of the Red Sox series and a two-run double yesterday. The best way to stop boos at Yankee Stadium is to show up in a big way against the dreaded Red Sox. Nice job, Giancarlo. This is what you were hired to do.

And for all of you who wanted to cut Neil Walker, ala Chris Carter style, I think he’s given his answer to you. On a team that has featured a different hero almost every night, Walker has been a key ingredient in many of the rallies. I think there’s a much better chance of Tyler Austin finding his way to Scranton, PA than Walker hitting the unemployment line. Sorry Tyler, it’s not you. Walker has simply appeared so graceful at first base even though he is out of position and now his bat is showing why he was an offensive force for the Pirates and Mets.  His veteran leadership meshes well with the team, and I am glad he’s here.

Hopefully CC Sabathia can close out the Red Sox this evening and send them out of town on a three-game losing streak. Since Rick Porcello had to move up his start by a day when Wednesday’s scheduled starter, David Price, returned to Boston for medical tests, Eduardo Rodriguez (3-0, 5.29 ERA) will take the mound later today for Boston.

The Yankees open a three-game set against the Oakland A’s on Friday night for their last home series before a road trip to Washington, Kansas City, and Dallas/Fort Worth. While it is cool Sonny Gray gets the start in the series opener against his former team, the player I will be watching most is former Yankee Dustin Fowler. The A’s called up Fowler yesterday.  I had wondered if he’d make his season debut and first official MLB at-bat against the Yankees, but a pinch-hit appearance yesterday against the Houston Astros gave Fowler the first Major League at-bat that eluded him last year in Chicago when he suffered the devastating knee injury. Pinch-hitting for Mark Canha in the 7th inning (with Houston’s Will Harris on the mound), Fowler lined out to second. So, he’ll come to Yankee Stadium seeking his first Major League hit. While I don’t want the A’s to win (obviously), I hope Fowler gets that hit and draws a standing ovation from the Yankee Stadium crowd. He deserves it. A good man who deserves the very best life has to offer. He will always be one of my favorite ex-Yankees.

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Photo Credit:  Getty Images

Gotta admit that it is really fun to be a Yankees fan right now. I know, it’s always fun, but the World seems like a better place when the Greedy Pinstripes are winning.

Go Yankees!

Houston, We Have No Problems…

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Bob Levey)

Yankees win again…

I have to admit the Yankees are playing better against the Houston Astros than I thought they would. It was a miserable start to current series when Houston’s Charlie Morton dominated the Yankees to take the first game, but since then, the Yankees have held the Astros scoreless for 22 innings and have limited them to two runs overall for three games. Houston is bound to score runs and it most likely will occur today but it’s been a fun ride.

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Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Karen Warren)

The Astros clearly have the best starting rotation but the Yankees have the better bullpen.  While we had early concerns about certain guys in the pen, the unit appears to be coming together and Aroldis Chapman looks great (even if he wasn’t needed last night). It is very nice to see Dellin Betances pitching like the All-Star version again. Chad Green, David Robertson…I am grateful for these guys every day.

Last night’s pitching performance by Luis Severino was magnificent. A day after Justin Verlander pitched a three-hit shutout for eight innings, striking out fourteen, only to walk away with a no-decision when Astros closer Ken Giles coughed up the game-winning home run to Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino took his gem to the finish line with a complete game, five-hit shutout. He also reached double-digits with strikeouts (ten).  If you want something done, you have to do it yourself.  It paid off for Sevy as he picked up his fifth win of the young season. Personally, I probably would have called it a night for Severino after eight innings and 98 pitches but thankfully they pay Aaron Boone to make those decisions, not me.

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Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Karen Warren)

It was only a matter of time until Giancarlo Stanton starting hitting like the NL MVP he is. Prior to yesterday’s game, I lost count of how many times I was reminded that Dallas Keuchel has never yielded any home runs to the Yankees. So, it was only fitting that the newcomer took Keuchel deep, not once but twice. I am really anxious for Stanton to have a game like this at Yankee Stadium. He has awed crowds in Toronto and Houston but I would love nothing better than for Stanton to take a curtain call in the Bronx.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Bob Levey)

I’ll borrow a term currently used on the TV show Supergirl. When they are hitting, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are “World Killers”. Yes, I watch Supergirl. C’mon, Melissa Benoist is hot. But with all sincerity, when the World Killers are on, the Yankees are unstoppable.

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I was as disappointed as any Yankees fan with the news that Jordan Montgomery will miss the next several months. While I am glad that the immediate prognosis does not involve Tommy John surgery, I recognize that anything is possible until Monty is healthy enough to pitch again. Hopefully rest over the next three weeks allows Montgomery to begin his path toward building arm strength once again. In the interim, I am looking forward to watching Domingo German. In Spring Training, I was so on Team German over Team Cessa as the Yankees’ long reliever/spot starter.  It’s unfortunate that it took an injury to Luis Cessa to open the door for German but I am glad he’s here. The Yankees certainly need to explore potential Plan B’s but for now, let’s see what the kid can do.  In my mind, A.J. Cole probably represents the next option. I’d prefer to see him over recent returnee David Hale.

When word spread that Monty had left Tuesday’s game after seven pitches, Yankees Twitter started clamoring for Chance Adams. While admittedly I am one of those who believe Adams is destined for the bullpen in a long-term view, his numbers at Triple A this year simply do not support an argument for his promotion. So far this season for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, Adams is 0-2 in five starts. He has given up 24 hits in 24 2/3 innings and 14 earned runs (including four home runs). His ERA is an unsightly 5.11 and his WHIP is the highest it has ever been (1.42).  He is not ready. Justus Sheffield is the Yankees best pitching prospect (in my opinion) and he is killing it in Double A. Okay, “killing it” might be a bit too strong at 1-2, but he’s struck out 39 guys in 28 innings. Only one batter has connected for a home run off Top Sheff and he’s limited teams to seven total earned runs for 2.25 ERA. I think Sheffield has earned a promotion to Triple A, but he’s not ready for The Show just yet. My personal favorite pitching prospect is Albert Abreu but he’s further away (has only made one start in High A after returning from injury).

We’re probably a good month and a half to two months away from teams legitimately talking trades for starting pitchers. Some have speculated the Yankees should go after Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants. MadBum is currently on the DL but when healthy, he’s one of the best when the calendar turns to October. I’d love to have the guy on the Yankees. I just don’t think the Giants will trade their best pitcher who has meant so much to the organization. But if he could be pried loose, I’d have to problem giving up guys like Clint Frazier and Chance Adams for him.

For now, I hope Domingo German takes the job as fifth starter and runs with it. I don’t expect him to be as good as Monty but as long as he keeps the Yankees in games, life will be good.

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Photo Credit: AP (Kathy Willens)

The Yankees play an afternoon matinee today in the final game of their four-game set with the Houston Astros. Win or lose, this has been a great road trip for the Yankees. Worst case, they had back to the Bronx with a 5-2 record for the latest travel. But to win six of seven would be fantastic. Lance McCullers, Jr always seems to rise to the occasion against his father’s former team, but as the Yankees showed Dallas Keuchel yesterday, no one is invincible. I am looking for Masahiro Tanaka to continue the string of outstanding pitching performances in this series. A few homers from Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez would not hurt. If it involves another implosion by Ken Giles, all the better.

Go Yankees!