Category: Minnesota Vikings

The Battle of the AL Titans…


With the help of a Walker…

Neil Walker makes his much anticipated debut in a Yankees lineup today in the only Spring rematch of the American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros…and the game is not televised…ugh! With no offense to the Cleveland Indians and the Boston Red Sox, this is one Spring game that could be a preview of coming attractions for October. Obviously, the outcome of this game decides nothing but I look forward to the Yankees-Astros battles over the course of the coming season. Hey, H-Town, we’re coming for you…

Photo Credit: AP (Kathy Willens)

As it stands, based on the comments floating out of camp, it appears that Tyler Wade has the advantage to start at second base for the Yankees against the Toronto Blue Jays on March 29th. His at-bat yesterday against Pittsburgh Pirates closer Felipe Rivero was epic. After Rivero sent Wade backwards into the dirt with a high and inside pitch, Wade battled back and worked a hard-fought walk. Last year, I have no doubt he would have struck out in that situation, allowing Rivero to get inside his head. Time and again, Wade is making the plays to show that he belongs. Given how much corporate executives raved about him over the winter and his subsequent performance this Spring, it’s easy to see why his name will be on the Opening Day roster. Walker’s flexibility to play multiple positions will most certainly keep his bat in the lineup even if Wade becomes the starter. Both Danny Espinosa and Adam Lind paid the price for the Walker signing  as evidenced by their releases, but I think the remaining player most adversely impacted will be Ronald Torreyes. It is interesting and perhaps telling that Walker’s debut against the Astros will feature him at first base rather than second base.  Have bat; will travel. Walker is ready to help wherever he is need in the infield except for shortstop and catcher. But something tells me he’d play those positions if they let him.

I remain very high on Brandon Drury. At the beginning of training camp, so many jumped on the Miguel Andujar bus after his series of home runs, but based on the signals I was reading, the organization feels that he needs more time to work on his defensive game. Also, given the many signs that there is mutual interest between the Yankees and Manny Machado, it makes you wonder about Andujar’s future in the organization. It seems like he is destined to be trade bait at some point. Nevertheless, for now, I am excited about Brandon Drury’s presence at third base even if Andujar or maybe Machado takes his job at some point in the future.

Joel Sherman of The New York Post recently ran an article which detailed how highly Drury is thought of by the Arizona Diamondbacks. They didn’t want to trade him but it was the only way they could land Steven Souza Jr from the Tampa Bay Rays to replace slugger J.D. Martinez who, as we know, left via free agency to sign with a certain team in Massachusetts. In his column, Sherman quotes D-Backs manager Torey Lovullo saying Drury might hit 30 home runs this year. Admittedly, that might be a bit too optimistic, but I like the potential of the player. The quote by Lovullo that stuck out with me is: “A great competitor, a great teammate. Cares on a pretty impressive level about being the absolute best he can be every single day. The Yankees got a special player. Very quiet. Very intense. But very attentive.”  I feel strongly that Drury is going to be a significant contributor for the 2018 Yankees. Frankly, I’d love for him to play so well the Yankees decide they don’t need Machado.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Jonathan Dyer)

It was disappointing to see Chance Adams’ reassignment to Minor League Camp on a down note. It wasn’t a great spring for him. He pitched in three games for a total of 4 2/3 innings, departing with 0-1 record and 11.57 ERA. 9 hits…ouch…6 runs…ouch…3 walks…ouch. In my eyes, both Justus Sheffield and Albert Abreu represent stronger future rotation possibilities.  I am starting to side with those who believe that Adams’ future lies in the bullpen.  It wasn’t only this Spring, there were signs last year in Triple A that started making me question his future as a starter. With all sincerity, I hope he proves me wrong. But that’s up to him, not me.

I like Jordan Montgomery but realistically, if the price is right, I’d still sign Alex Cobb. Pitching, pitching, pitching…you can never have enough.

Manager Aaron Boone is going to have so many options when he writes up his lineups depending upon matchups, but I really liked yesterday’s Aaron Judge-Giancarlo Stanton-Gary Sanchez sequence against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Sanchez, of course, killed it with 5 RBI’s.  I am convinced that El Gary can be “the beast” in the batting order all season long. Best hitter on the team in my opinion. Then again, there are no weaknesses, top to bottom. Boone could use a Power Ball machine to determine his batting order and not be wrong. Okay, that approach might be a little too much, but how many first-time managers are handed the keys to a Lamborghini?  Poor Ron Gardenhire was the most experienced manager hired in the off-season and he was given a Ford Pinto. For Boonie, life is good.

I’d take $84 million guaranteed too…

With my apologies to those of you who are Jets fans, I am glad that QB Kirk Cousins signed with the Minnesota Vikings. Of course, I say that as a lifelong (long suffering?) Vikings fan.  Perhaps Minnesota overpaid for a QB with a losing record, but I like Cousins as the team’s new field general. I have greater faith in him than I did the three Vikings quarterbacks who departed via free agency. Case Keenum.  Great guy, but was it him or the system?  Could be a one-season wonder. Maybe not, but I’d rather have the guy who is coming off three consecutive 4,000 yard seasons. Sam Bradford. Love the arm, but the dude can’t stay healthy. Teddy Bridgewater. He looked like the future star of the organization until the devastating knee injury. Do we really know if he can successfully make it back? For a team that is Super Bowl-caliber, the Vikings couldn’t take the chance. Bridgewater could blossom for the Jets and provide them with the QB they’ve been lacking. From a character standpoint, you’d be hard-pressed to find many better than Bridgewater. I think the Jets made the right move to sign him.  I really hope that he realizes the greatness that seemed destined for him in Minnesota.  There’s no doubt he has championship-quality drive and determination.


During the press conference yesterday in Minneapolis to announce the signing, Cousins sounded a bit like Brian Cashman talking about Aaron Boone in his description of how the city and team “checked all the boxes”. I kept anticipating some type of “expect to be great” line in Kirk’s speech but he did “check the boxes” for me by mentioning Super Bowls (plural).  Works for me. Congratulations to Kirk and his family. I wish him much success and happiness in the Twin Cities. Now, just bring me the Super Bowl, I means Super Bowls, that I’ve waited all my life for!

Photo Credit: Star Tribune (Elizabeth Flores)

But, back to baseball. Go Yankees!


Pinstriped Trade Rumors Will Never Die…

Photo Credit:  Kevin C Cox, Getty Images

Red Thunder Gets No Rest…

Now that we don’t have Gerrit Cole rumors to fuel our days, it looks like we’ll be hearing more and more about Yu Darvish until he finally signs somewhere.

John Harper of The New York Daily News floated a trade possibility this morning. In his scenario, the Yankees would send Jacoby Ellsbury and Clint Frazier to the San Francisco Giants for second baseman Joe Panik. By including Frazier, Harper figures the Yankees could get the Giants to pay $12-$13 million annually of what’s left on Ellsbury’s contract.  In his line of thinking, the trade would open the pathway for the Yankees to sign Darvish so he basically views it as an Ellsbury/Frazier swap for Darvish/Panik.

Photo Credit: Lance Iversen, USA TODAY Sports

I am not sure that I’m crazy about the trade idea but if the Yankees were willing to send Frazier to Pittsburgh for Cole, they’d be willing to move him to bring in Yu Darvish.

If the Yankees carried a fifth outfielder on the roster to start the year (assuming Ellsbury and Frazier are dealt), it would most likely be Tyler Austin, who could back up first and the corner outfield spots, or Billy McKinney, an outfielder who did work at first base during the Arizona Fall League.

Panik’s presence would allow the Yankees to take their time with Gleyber Torres or move him to third base as once planned. A native New Yorker, Panik, 27, hit .288 with 10 home runs and 53 RBIs for the Giants in 2017. He was eligible for arbitration for the first time this year and settled with the Giants last week for $3.45 million. He can be a free agent in 2021. His lefty bat would play well in Yankee Stadium.

No one is going to take Ellsbury in a straight one-for-one swap, even with boatloads of cash included. So as much as I’d hate to lose Frazier, this is probably a trade that I’d make so long as I knew that I could sign either Darvish or Alex Cobb for the starting rotation.

In an unrelated rumor, Jim Bowden is saying that the Milwaukee Brewers are interested in signing third baseman Mike Moustakas if they could trade Travis Shaw to the Braves, Mets or Yankees. I’m never too excited about adding an ex-Red Sock, but Shaw had a breakout year for the Brewers in 2017 with 31 home runs and 101 RBIs. He batted .273/.349/.513.  He is a left-handed bat and will turn 28 in mid-April. Not sure what level of interest the Yankees might have, but it bears watching. It would certainly cause much angst in the Red Sox Nation.

Photo Credit: Jim Davis, Globe Staff

Congrats Hideki Matsui…

According to The Japan Times, former Yankee (and Yomiuri Giant) Hideki Matsui has been elected to the Japanese Hall of Fame. At 43 years and 7 months, Matsui is the youngest entrant to the Japanese HOF, eclipsing former Dodgers/Mets pitcher Hideo Nomo, who was 45 years and 4 months at the time of his election.

Before heading to the United States to join the Yankees, Matsui won three Central League home run titles (1998, 2000, and 2002) and he was MVP of the CL in 1996, 2000, and 2002.

This was Matsui’s first year on the Japanese ballot and he garnered 91.3% of the vote. He was joined by former Hanshin Tigers star Tomoaki Kanemoto and former Yomiuri Giants manager Tatsunori Hara.

In his prepared statement, Matsui thanked his mentor, former Yomiuri Giants skipper Shigeo Nagashima. “Day in and day out, (Nagashima) checked my swing, and those days formed the cornerstone for me as a baseball player.

Photo Credit: Kyodo

Hideki’s father, Masao, attended the announcement ceremony on his behalf.  Hideki is in New York and was unable to attend.

Congratulations to the great #55 for the well-deserved honor!

Stanton and Judge who?…

Aaron Hicks caused quite a stir on Instagram this weekend when he posted a workout pic that shows he is more than capable of holding his own in the Yankees outfield. I was a little shocked when I first saw the pic and there were plenty of people who questioned whether or not it really was A-A-Ron (it is). Justin Diamond (@justindiamond) had the best tweet:  “Sweet baby Jesus. @AaronHicks31 you on the juice this off-season?”…

Wow, what a football game!…

As a lifelong Minnesota Vikings fan, I’ve endured my share of disappointment over the years. The Vikings have found more unique ways to lose big games than any NFL team that I can think of. Well, outside of the Buffalo Bills. Yesterday’s NFC Playoff game against the New Orleans Saints was a game of atonement for me.

The Vikings jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first half and I was getting congratulations from a number of friends. As a Vikings fan, I knew it was way too early to start getting excited.  Plus, Drew Brees is still one of the game’s great quarterbacks.  Sure enough, a couple of plays in the second half shifted the momentum to the Saints. The Vikings lost the lead and then re-captured it with less than 2 minutes to go. I was fearful that the Vikings had left too much time on the clock for Brees and Company and unfortunately I was right. Brees led the Saints to a field goal to re-capture the lead at 24-23 with 25 seconds left. Starting on their own 25 after a touchback on the kickoff, the Vikings moved to their 39 and faced a third down with 10 seconds left and no time outs. I was resigned to the agony of defeat when Vikings QB Case Keenum hit WR Stefon Diggs for a 61-yard touchdown to win the game. The Vikings won the game, 29-24. It was such an incredible feeling…something like Aaron Judge hitting a game-winning home run in the bottom of the 9th.

Photo Credit: Pioneer Press

I am not sure what will happen next week in Philadelphia as the Vikings take on the Eagles for the NFC Championship but I am enjoying the ride. The Eagles are the only thing that stands between the Vikings and playing this year’s Super Bowl at US Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota. So regardless of whether they win or lose, the Vikings are going home. I just hope it is with a game still be played.

Lastly, We Remember…

Today, we remember the late great Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. Actually, he is thought of every day, but today is officially his day. He had so many great words over the course of his life, but I’ll leave this post with one: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Thank you, Dr King, for making a difference. We are a better country because of you and would have been even greater if you hadn’t been taken from us prematurely. We are forever grateful for you and your efforts to make this a better World for all of us.

Never forget MLK Jr…

Go Yankees!

Once Again, Brian Cashman is Right…

Photo Credit:  Brad Penner, USA TODAY Sports

And Thus Endeth the Cole Rumors…

The trade rumor that wouldn’t go away…did. The Pittsburgh Pirates finally traded their so-called ace to the Houston Astros for a package that included reliever Joe Musgrove (a speculated middle-of-the-rotation starter type), third baseman Colin Moran, reliever Michael Feliz, and minor league outfielder Jason Martin. Moran, former Major Leaguer B.J. Surhoff’s nephew, was the Astros’ seventh-rated prospect according to

If the Yankees did, in fact, offer Clint Frazier, Chance Adams, and Miguel Andujar to the Pirates, Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington didn’t stop until he could find a much worse package for Steel Town. In reality, the trade shows that GM Brian Cashman never offered the much talked about packages for Cole. It’s been said that he may have only offered Clint Frazier OR Chance Adams. The Yankees were clearly not as high on Cole as the Astros were.

I’m glad the page can finally be turned. I am in favor of adding a starting pitcher only if it upgrades the current starting rotation. After completion of the one-year contracts for all the arbitration-eligible players, the Yankees have approximately $22 million left before they hit the luxury tax threshold (which is, of course, a hard “salary cap” in the Hal Steinbrenner Universe) of $197 million. The Yankees will not use all of that money so to say that they have $22 million left to spend is a bit of a misnomer. They need to set aside $2 million in case CC Sabathia hits his bonus milestones and there’s no way that Team Hal will bring payroll (AAV) tightly against the threshold. He’ll want a buffer and of course there needs to be enough room to play at the trading deadline. Only the Yankees truly know how much money they have left to spend.

If the Yankees did sign a free agent pitcher like Yu Darvish or Alex Cobb, it is a certainty that the contract of Brett Gardner or David Robertson would be moved to make room. With the money the Yankees would have to include with Jacoby Ellsbury if they could entice him to waive his no-trade clause, I don’t think moving him would provide enough salary space for a big ticket purchase. They’d have to find a team willing to take at least half of his current salary and honestly I don’t think that team exists.

Chris Archer, we’re coming for you. With Cole out of the picture, the pitcher most likely to draw top speculation as the guy targeted for the Yankees, it is the talented 29-year-old righthander of the Tampa Bay Rays. Of course, it’s possible that we could start hearing Michael Fulmer’s name again but both men continue to carry high price tags. If he doesn’t get a viable role for the 2018 Yankees (i.e., trade of Gardner or Ellsbury to make way), Frazier would look very good in Detroit’s outfield.

Even despite the current stagnant free agent market, I don’t think either Mike Moustakas or Todd Frazier will accept a one-year “pillow” contract regardless of what happens between now and training camp. I like the left-handed bat of Moustakas but I think he’ll eventually end up with the St Louis Cardinals.

At this point, there is not really much left to do for the Yankees except make preparations to to start training camp in a month. Now that long-time coach Rob Thomson (annual organizer of training camp) is in Philadelphia, third base coach Phil Nevin and others will have to step up and deliver for new manager Aaron Boone. I am looking forward to the results of their preparation and organization as they host the members and challengers for the 2018 New York Yankees.

Go ahead, underestimate Didi Gregorius…

The MLB Network has been reviewing their top ten lists at each position, but they blew it for shortstops. The omission of Didi Gregorius is wrong. There’s no way that I’d trade Didi for half of the guys on this list:

Tim Beckham over Didi is a joke. Trevor Story was struggling to hold his job last season and it’s only a matter of time until Rockies top prospect Brendan Rodgers pushes him out of the way.

That’s fine. Pitch to Didi like you think he’s an afterthought in the Yankees lineup and let’s see what happens.

Congratulations to Tyler Austin…

Tyler Austin proposed to his long-time girlfriend, Stephanie Dana, over the weekend and she said yes. Hopefully this is a sign that 2018 is shaping up to be a fantastic year for the young Yankees first baseman/outfielder. Congrats to Tyler and Stephanie!

The New York Mess…

The Mets are really going to sign free agent first baseman Adrian Gonzalez? It makes me appreciate every day that I am a Yankees fan. Nothing like pushing a young, promising first baseman (Dominic Smith) out of the way for an aged ‘has-been’. Jon Heyman’s argument is that A-Gon only costs the minimum and there are questions about Smith’s conditioning.  Viable arguments but I am glad that A-Gon is on their team and not mine.

Photo Credit: Orange County Register

Go Vikings…

Life as a Minnesota Vikings fan has not been as rewarding as life as a Yankees fan, but the best Vikings team in years takes the field today against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC playoffs. The winner moves on to the NFC Championship to play the Eagles in Philadelphia. I am hopeful and optimistic that the Vikings will be the ones traveling to the City of Brotherly Love.

The Vikings will feature three active QB’s behind starter Case Keenum. Sam Bradford, who missed the majority of the season with a knee injury, was activated for today’s game. He’ll be joined by fellow QB’s Teddy Bridgewater and Kyle Sloter. With Keenum, Bradford, and Bridgewater all potential free agents after the season, I was very glad to see the Vikings waive backup TE Kyle Carter rather than Sloter to free up a spot for Bradford. Bradford was the starting QB in the season opener when the Vikings beat the Saints. My hope is that all three backups need to do no more than hold clipboards while Keenum continues his season of rejuvenation.

Go Vikings!

And as always, Go Yankees!

Quick, Grab the Imodium A-D!…

Credit:  Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Yankees 13, Tigers 4…

Watch out, the Yankees have the runs!  Seriously, it was great to finally have a breather.  The tone was set early when Gary Sanchez blasted the second longest home run this year (493 feet) as the Yankees throttled the Tigers.

Aaron Hicks got the party started in the first inning with a one-out single, a grounder up the middle.  Enter El Gary.  Boom!  He blasted a moon shot that flew over all rows in the left field stands and bounced off the back wall just under the LED board that shows pitch count.  The home run was two feet short of the home run Aaron Judge hit on June 11th against the Baltimore Orioles.  Aaron Judge, moved down in the order to clean-up, worked a walk off Tigers pitcher Matthew Boyd.  Didi Gregorius, the road warrior (has hit in 16 of his last 19 road games), lined a double to right-center.  Judge advanced to third.  The Yankees picked up their final run of the inning when Tyler Austin lofted a sacrifice fly to center which scored Judge.  3-0, Yankees.

Credit:  Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

With Masahiro Tanaka cruising, the Yankees picked up more runs in the third.  Aaron Judge led off with another walk.  Didi Gregorius hit an infield bouncer toward third that glanced off the leg of the pitcher, Matthew Boyd, as he attempted to field the ball.  Didi was awarded a hit.  Tyler Austin lined a solid fly that dropped in left, scoring Judge.  Didi moved to second.  After Chase Headley lined out to center, Todd Frazier ripped the ball down the line to the right field corner.  Both Judge and Gregorius scored.  The Toddfather safely slid into third ahead of the outfield relay.  The Tigers pulled Boyd and brought in reliever Warwick Saupold.  Ronald Torreyes, the little man always coming up big, lined a sacrifice fly to right, and Frazier slid into home under the throw from the outfield.  The Yankees led, 7-0.  

The Tigers finally got on the board in the bottom of the 3rd.  James McCann led off with a liner to center to reach first.  Two outs later, Ian Kinsler hit a long fly that bounced off the warning track in center for a double.  McCann scored on the play.  

The Yankees loaded the bases in the 4th with a single (Gary Sanchez) and two walks (Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin) but couldn’t score.  With Warwick Saupold still on the mound, they broke through with more runs in the 5th.  Todd Frazier lined a single to left. Ronald Torreyes chopped a hit through the left side for single.  Brett Gardner hit into a fielder’s choice to first baseman Miguel Cabrera, Cabrera off first, threw to second to erase Toe. Gardy was too fast for the Tigers to get the ball back to first.  Runners at the corners.  Aaron Hicks hit an infield grounder toward first that Miguel Cabrera couldn’t field cleanly.  It was ruled a fielder’s choice with Hicks safely reaching base. Frazier scored on the play while Gardy took second. After Gary Sanchez struck out, Aaron Judge ripped the ball to left to score Gardy.  The Yankees had increased their lead to 9-1. It was the end of the day for Saupold.  I was sorry to see him go.  The Tigers brought in Drew VerHagen and he got the Tigers out of the inning by inducing Didi Gregorius to ground out to second.  

The 7th inning brought more runs for both sides.  I am sure that Sonny Gray was feeling slightly envious of the run support Masahiro Tanaka was getting.  Brett Gardner led off the 7th with a triple, a long fly to right that Alex Presley couldn’t catch up to.  Aaron Hicks followed with a shot into the right center field stands and the Yankees had added to their lead, 11-1.  

Credit:  Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

In the bottom of the inning, the Tigers finally broke through against Tanaka again.  John Hicks, pinch-hitting for Miguel Cabrera, doubled to left.  Nicholas Castanellos homered to right, just a few rows up in the stands and it was 11-3.  Following a coaching visit to the mound by pitching coach Larry Rothschild, Andrew Romine hit a ball down the left field line similar to the ball that John Hicks had hit, but Gardy’s throw to second was ahead of the runner for the out.  A ground out by James McCann ended the inning and the game for Masahiro Tanaka.  

Chasen Shreve replaced Tanaka in the 8th.  He retired the Tigers despite a double by Jose Iglesias to push the game to the 9th.  With Tigers reliever Jeff Ferrell pitching, Tyler Wade, pinch-hitting for Ronald Torreyes, reached on an infield single to short thanks to his speed out of the box.  Following line outs by Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks, Gary Sanchez   hit his second home run, a blast to right.  It was 13-3 Yankees.  The homer was El Gary’s 25th of the year.  He is only 5 homers of the team record shared by Jorge Posada and Yogi Berra (twice).  All this from a man who missed a month of the season.  I think he likes the third hole in the lineup.  

Shreve finished up the 9th to protect the bullpen. There was a bit of comedy with Nicholas Castanellos at bat (easy to say when the Yankees are holding a 10-run lead).  Castanellos hit a fly to center.  Jacoby Ellsbury tried to catch the ball on a slide but the ball got past him and rolled to the wall.  Brett Gardner retrieved it and threw to the cut-off man, Tyler Wade, who threw home too late to get Castanellos.  Inside-the-park home run and the second HR of the night for Castanellos.  Andrew Romine followed with a high fly ball that took Brett Gardner to the wall but Gardy made the catch to end the game.  The Yankees win!  

The Yankees (67-57), who picked up a 1/2 game during Monday’s day off thanks to a Red Sox loss, couldn’t make up any ground on Tuesday as Boston pounded the Cleveland Indians, 9-1.  It was an interesting game for the Red Sox as starter Doug Fister gave up a lead off home run to Francisco Lindor and then held the Indians hitless for the duration of the game.  Not bad for a bargain basement pickup.  The Yankees trail the Sox by 4 games.   The battle for third place in the AL East continues to swing back and forth between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Baltimore Orioles.  The Rays beat the Toronto Blue Jays, 6-5, to move back into third.  They are 6 1/2 games behind the Yankees.  The O’s fell to the Oakland A’s, 6-4.  They are 7 games back of the Yankees.  No change in the Wild Card standings as the Yankees continue to lead the Minnesota Twins by 2 1/2 games.

I had no problem with Manager Joe Girardi’s decision to pinch-hit for Aaron Judge in the 7th inning.  Judge had four at-bats.  He walked three times and had the RBI single.  He also scored two times.  It was a productive day for him and it was time for the MLB-record for strikeouts in consecutive games to end at 37.  Girardi denied pulling Judge to end the streak but regardless of whether or not he did, I thought it was the right thing to do.

Credit:  Carlos Osorio-Associated Press

The two-run home run masked an otherwise tremendous start by Masahiro Tanaka (9-10).  This is the pitcher the Yankees need down the stretch.  His final line was 7.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 4 SO which qualified as a quality start but it was better than that.  Nice job, Masa!

Credit:  Carlos Osorio-Associated Press

It was a very productive night for Gary Sanchez, including the two home runs, and Aaron Hicks, with his dinger.  They had 4 and 3 RBI’s, respectively.  Every Yankees starter reached base by either hit or walk.  We needed this.  Hopefully the Yankees will continue to hit and drive in runs during this road trip.  

Have a great Wednesday!  The Yankees can take the series today with a win.  Go Luis Severino and Go Yankees!

90 Feet: So Close Yet So Far Away…

Credit:  Kathy Willens-AP
Tigers 4, Yankees 3…
On a night when the Boston Red Sox refused to lose, the Yankees meekly fell to the Detroit Tigers and a collection of underwhelming pitchers.  It was a very disappointing loss as the Yankees fell out of first place.  The Yankees had the tying run at third and the winning run at second in the bottom of the 9th but Clint Frazier failed to deliver in the clutch against former Yankee Shane Greene.

For CC Sabathia, it really came down to one bad pitch.  With runners at first and second with two outs in the top of the 2nd inning, CC got into an extended battle with Tigers first baseman John Hicks, throwing everything but the kitchen sink at him.  On the 10th pitch of the at-bat, Hicks deposited a poorly thrown backdoor slider into the right field stands (just beyond the glove of a leaping Aaron Judge), giving the Tigers a lead they would not relinquish.  

Credit:  Paul J Bereswill-New York Post

Justin Upton homered off Sabathia in the 3rd inning, also with two outs, to give the Tigers the necessary insurance run they would need to win.  The Yankees wasted an opportunity to chip away in the bottom of the 3rd when Tyler Wade led off with a double to center.  A wild pitch by Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez moved Wade to third with no outs.  But Brett Gardner, Clint Frazier and Aaron Judge all failed to bring Wade home.

In the bottom of the 4th, the Yankees finally got on the board when Gary Sanchez opened with a double to left.  Didi Gregorius homered to right to bring the Yankees within two runs, 4-2.  But those were the only runs the Yankees would be able to get off Anibal Sanchez.

The Yankees picked up their final run in the bottom of the 8th against the Tigers bullpen.  With Alex Wilson pitching, Gary Sanchez singled to left and advanced to second on a throwing error by left fielder Justin Upton.  The Tigers replaced Wilson with Daniel Stumpf and he was greeted by a run-scoring single from Didi Gregorius to make it a one-run game. Matt Holliday grounded into a double play to end the inning.  

The Tigers almost added to their lead in the top of the 9th.  David Robertson had been brought in to start the inning, in relief of Adam Warren.  Thanks to two singles, the Tigers had runners at first and second with two outs.  Austin Romine’s brother Andrew singled to center but Brett Gardner gunned down the lead runner (James McCann) at the plate.  

Credit:  Jim McIsaac-Getty Images

In the bottom of the 9th, Jacoby Ellsbury walked with two outs.  A throwing error by Tigers reliever Shane Greene on a pick-off attempt allowed Ellsbury to race to third.  The Tigers chose to intentionally walk Brett Gardner to face Clint Frazier.  Gardner stole second to put the winning run in scoring position.  The stage was set for Frazier to be the hero.  Unfortunately, he took two called strikes without moving his bat and then popped out on the third pitch from Greene to end the game.  It was a disappointing loss and another game of missed opportunities.  

The Yankees (57-48) dropped a half game behind the Boston Red Sox with the loss.  Boston battled the Cleveland Indians all night long, with the lead constantly changing hands.  The Indians scored 7 runs off Red Sox ace Chris Sale in the game.  They also scored two runs in the top of the 9th against Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel, including a solo homer by Francisco Lindor which tied the game.  The Indians took a 10-9 lead into the bottom of the 9th with closer Cody Allen on the mound, but Boston’s Christian Vasquez hit a three-run homer for the 12-10 walk-off win.  The Tampa Bay Rays also won.  They beat the Houston Astros, 6-4, behind Chris Archer.  They are 3 1/2 games behind the Yankees.  The Baltimore Orioles won their fourth consecutive game (7-2 over the Kansas City Royals) so they moved within 5 1/2 games of the Yankees.  

Credit:  John Wilcox-Boston Herald
Matt Holliday was 2-for-4 with a double so there’s hope he is finally coming around, but he continues to be a disappointment in clutch situations.  Getting his bat right is a key for the Yankees as long as Manager Joe Girardi keeps penciling his name into the lineup.  Clint Frazier and Aaron Judge were a combined 0-for-9.  CC Sabathia (9-4) took the loss. He did rebound to give the Yankees six innings.  He allowed 6 hits, 4 runs, and 1 walk while striking out 3.  The Yankees could have taken him off the hook but offense from Didi Gregorius alone was not enough.
Credit:  Kathy Willens-AP
Brett Gardner stole two bases during the game and moved into fifth place tie with Roy White on the Yankees all-time list with 233 steals.  Next on the list is Hal Chase with 248 steals and Willie Randolph at 251.  The top leaders are Derek Jeter (358) and Rickey Henderson (326).
The Yankees can take the series this afternoon with a win on getaway day. Hopefully, the cold bats from yesterday have thawed overnight.
The Great Thurman Munson…
I always think of Thurman Munson on this day.  I can still remember where I was when I heard the news that my favorite player had died in a plane crash in Akron, Ohio on August 2, 1979.  It ripped the heart and soul out of the 1979 team.  The late Bobby Murcer, who had been reacquired by the Yankees a little more than a month before the plane crash, was the spiritual leader through this very difficult time.  “The life of a soul on earth lasts longer than his departure. He lives on in your life and the life of all others who knew him.” 

Odds & Ends…
The newcomers have chosen their new numbers.  Sonny Gray will take #55, most recently occupied by Bryan Mitchell, and Jaime Garcia will don #34, worn the last few years by Houston Astros catcher Brian McCann.  When it was obvious that neither player would be able to get their same preferred number (54), I thought the selections of 34 and 55 were the most obvious.
Credit:  Robert Sabo-New York Post
The history of 55, in recent years, has resided with Hideki Matsui and Ramiro Mendoza, but lately it’s been available for Mitchell whenever he’s been called up.  I guess he’ll finally have to choose a new number when he gets his next Bronx phone call.  I think 55 is a great number for Gray.  I’ve long associated the number, pitching-wise, to the “Bulldog”…former Los Angeles Dodgers hurler Orel Hershiser.  I am sure there are plenty of other prominent players that have worn the number, but for some reason, I’ve always just thought of the Bulldog.

Credit:  Getty Images

Jaime Garcia, in a pre-game interview, told the story how his late grandfather had told him as a boy he would play for the Yankees.  The Yankees are his family’s favorite team, and they were Jaime’s favorite team as a kid.  Great story.  I am looking forward to watching Jaime pitch in pinstripes.  Based on Joe Girardi’s comments, it appears that Sonny Gray will start in Cleveland on Thursday and Garcia will take the mound the next day.  I hate to be guilty of looking ahead, but I can’t wait for Thursday and Friday.  They should be fun and exciting games.

Credit:  Kathy Willens-AP

It has been said that the Gray trade has the potential to be a steal for the Yankees.  While I am glad Gray is a Yankee, the potential also exists for the trade to be a steal for the A’s.  I still believe that James Kaprielian can be a top of the rotation starter.  Jorge Mateo and Dustin Fowler can be very dangerous players for a future A’s squad.  Best case, the trade is a win/win for both organizations.  

It was another win for Chance Adams (7-3, 2.32 ERA).  The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders defeated the Buffalo Bisons, 5-1, on Tuesday behind Adams but the usual problem surfaced with too many walks (four).  He went 6 innings (101 pitches), giving up 8 hits and 3 runs to the Bisons.  He struck out 3.  Billy McKinney, one of the players that will need to be placed on the 40-man roster before December’s Rule 5 Draft, hit a three-run homer to back Adams.

Have a great Wednesday!  Let’s grab a win before the guys hop a plane to Cleveland.  Go Yankees!

The World Champion Chicago Cubs…

The Cubs can still say “Wait ’til next year!”…

Congratulations to the Chicago Cubs and their (true) fans for the long-awaited World Series championship!


Credit:  Brian Cassella, The Chicago Tribune

Admittedly, I was pulling for the Cleveland Indians.  I have no great love for the Indians, but ace reliever Andrew Miller was my favorite Yankee during his time in New York.  Also, I have the highest respect for manager Terry Francona, who is probably my favorite manager outside of Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly.

Still, it was exciting to see the young Cubs finally bring closure to baseball’s longest drought.  It’s staggering to think how many Cubs fans lived their entire lives without seeing a Cubs championship.  For the first time in my life, the Cubs have won more recently than the Yankees.  The Cubs are poised for future success so, in a way, this feels like the 1996 Yankees.  The best of the Cubs may be yet to come.

It was an interesting World Series with both bullpens featuring pitchers who represented the back end of the Yankees’ pen earlier this year with flame-thrower Aroldis Chapman and the very versatile Andrew Miller.  There was speculation that the pitchers would play a key role in the seventh game of the series, but both had off nights (thanks in large part to the heavy load that both carried over the course of the series).

APTOPIX World Series Indians Cubs Baseball

Credit:  Nam Y. Huh, AP

It was arguably one of the greatest World Series that I’ve seen.  How often is the World Series tied at the end of the 9th inning of Game 7?  Not very…with a statement of the obvious.  I do feel bad for the Indians and their fans to come so close.  Victory was within their reach with a clutch hit or two.

Theo Epstein has proven that he is the master of dispelling curses.  He did it in Boston and now he’s done it in Chicago.  I wonder if he’s ever thought about pro football?  I am starting to think that he’d be a wise choice to take control of the Minnesota Vikings.  Seriously, Theo deserves much credit for bringing a championship to Chicago.

World Series Cubs Indians Baseball

Credit:  The Associated Press

I know that he was glad to return to New York, but I wonder if there was a part of reliever Adam Warren that missed being a member of the Cubs during October.


Credit:  Bleacher Nation

The future of Pinstripes…

Now that the World Series is over, the Hot Stove League can begin.  Next week, we’ll see the opening of free agency, although any real activity is still a few weeks away.  I am very hopeful the Yankees aggressively pursue either Chapman or Los Angeles Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen.  I am not really interested in a reunion with Washington Nationals free agent closer Mark Melancon.  I’d really like to see the Yankees employ Dellin Betances much like how Miller was used by the Indians.  With a strong closer, and hopefully continued improvement by young pitchers like Jonathan Holder, the Yankees bullpen has the potential to be as great as it was early last season.  I’ll miss Miller but the Yankees can take much pressure off the starting rotation with a strong pen.  That’s a much easier fix than a trade for a frontline starter like Chris Sale.

I wish I knew with certainty that Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, and Tyler Austin will be as ready for the major leagues next spring as Gary Sanchez.  If these players struggle, it may be a long year in New York.

The Arizona Fall League has shown the Yankees have a great shortstop/second base prospect in Gleyber Torres, who could eventually force the Yankees to move Starlin Castro or Didi Gregorius, but he’s still a few years away.  The Yankees don’t have an immediate high level third base prospect, but Miguel Andujar has shown he is doing his best to fast track it to the Bronx to allow the Yankees to replace the disappointing Chase Headley.  I am excited about the future of starting pitcher James Kaprielian.  I just hope that he’s not included in any trades for more established pitchers.

Kaprielian, James 1601 (Mitchell).jpg

Credit:  Bill Mitchell

This is a difficult off-season for the Yankees.  If they stay the course and continue to acquire young prospects and avoid large free-agent signings, it’ll be hard for the team to take the next step to return to World Series contention.  After so much work to acquire top level prospects, it would be foolish to trade them away for players in their 30’s.

Clearly, the Yankees have guys they can and should move.  As much as Brian McCann wants to stay in New York, it makes too much sense to move him to Atlanta or elsewhere.  With young catchers like Austin Romine and Kyle Higashioka to back up Gary Sanchez, the Yankees have greater needs in other areas.  The Yankees do need to move either Brett Gardner or Jacoby Ellsbury.  The latter would be preferable, but the former might be easier, but maybe not as easy as it would have been a year ago.  Chase Headley is an overpay, but until something better comes along, he’s not going anywhere.

While I understand the reasons the Yankees need to non-tender pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, who is currently recuperating from Tommy John surgery, I do hope that they find a way to re-sign him to a deal to allow him to return following his recovery.  It’s a given that second baseman/utility-man Dustin Ackley will be non-tendered, ending his brief Yankees career.  I had always hoped that he’d finally unlock his potential in New York but it was not meant to be.

The next two months will go a long way toward shaping the 2017 Yankees.  They could be inactive, much like last year, or they could be aggressive.  I am hoping for something in the middle.  Cautious, strategic planning for long-term sustainability…and Aroldis Chapman.

Time will tell as it often does…


Home for the Holidays…

Glad my favorite NFL team is 4-0…

The playoffs have started but it clearly feels as though baseball is over for me this year given the Yankees are home for the holidays.  I’ve picked up the mantle for the Los Angeles Dodgers given they are my favorite National League team, but of course, it’s just not the same.  Realistically, I don’t think anyone is beating the Chicago Cubs in the NL this year.  They seem to be the team of destiny.  In our lifetime, we’ve seen the end of the Curse of the Bambino and now it seems the end of the Cubbies’ World Series drought is near.


On the AL side, I thought the Boston Red Sox would emerge as the premier team.  But two games into the AL playoffs has shown a short 5 game series is anybody’s to win.  The Red Sox are not playing like the team that completely destroyed the Yankees in Boston a few weeks ago.  I have no doubt the Red Sox can sweep the next three games to win their series against the Cleveland Indians but obviously they do find themselves in a precarious situation with no room for error.  I have been quietly surprised and pleased by Cleveland’s performance.  Tito Francona has long been one of my favorite managers (Don Mattingly is the other) and he is showing why in this series against his former team.


Credit:  Jake Roth, USA Today Sports

The Texas Rangers quietly had the best year in the AL, but they have absolutely no pitching answer for the devastating bats in the Toronto Blue Jays’ lineup.  Right now, the odds are in favor of a Blue Jays-Indians American League Championship Series.  I thought we’d be looking at Red Sox-Rangers but I guess that’s why they play the games.

Fortunately, the quick start by the health-challenged Minnesota Vikings gives me something to think about other than baseball and the absence of America’s favorite team.


Credit:  Jerry Holt, TNS

Excuse me, can I have that chair?…

With spots on the 40-man roster at a premium, it wasn’t a surprise to see the recent moves to free up space.  While Blake Parker and Kirby Yates did well, at times, during the season, they are replaceable parts.  It didn’t take the Los Angeles Angels long to snatch up both players.  The Yankees also cut ties with Eric Young, Jr but that was no surprise as his only role was speed for September (filling the Rico Noel role from a year earlier).  No doubt there are more moves to be made.  I am glad to see the Yankees protect young guys like catcher Kyle Higashioka who could have been lost without a spot on the 40-man roster.  Tough decisions for GM Brian Cashman.


Credit:  Reinhold Matay, USA Today Sports

When you are trying to protect young talent, the 40-man roster suddenly feels so limiting.  I am sure there will be some losses of quality talent in this year’s Rule 5 draft.  It is always hard to see lost prospects achieve major league success elsewhere (Jose Quintana of the Chicago White Sox comes to mind).  Last year saw the Yankees lose a couple of guys, like outfielder Jake Cave, but fortunately none stuck on their respective major league rosters and were returned.  I don’t think they’ll  be so lucky this year.

I am thankful that Alex Rodriguez will not be filling one of those seats this off-season.  As much as Brian McCann would like to stay, I think the Yankees need to find a way to move him and his salary.  I would prefer a more consistent bat at DH but even if the Yankees don’t go outside for help, they have a plethora of young outfielders.  Greg Bird will most likely replace Mark Teixeira at first which means the Yankees need to find a place for Tyler Austin.  With so many outfield options, DH might be the best spot for the young slugger who could then spell Bird at times.

With such a youthful roster, guys like Chase Headley are suddenly looking very old.


Credit:  Noah K Murray, USA Today Sports

I remain hopeful that the Yankees will pursue a proven closer like Aroldis Chapman (my preference) or Kenley Jansen in the off-season.  With Dellin Betances moving back into the primary setup role, the Yankees bullpen could return to its status as one of the game’s best which would relieve pressure on the starting rotation.  I just don’t see any great starting pitching options available in the trade market which wouldn’t cost multiple top prospects.

As much as I would love to have one of the impending free agent bats in Toronto, I think the cost would be too great for the team at this point in time.  I like the strategy of acquiring a young players with upside like Aaron Hicks even if that one didn’t exactly pan out…yet.  That’s exactly what the Blue Jays did when they acquired Jose Bautista from the Pittsburgh Pirates and I think that one turned out well for the acquiring team.

I don’t think I’ll be ready to proclaim the Yankees as a World Series contender come Spring, but hopefully the team continues to make the moves to set up the Yankees for a run in 2018 and beyond.  A strong base for sustained success is unquestionably the best path over any quick fixes.

Now is the time when Brian Cashman truly earns his paycheck…


Credit:  Corey Sipkin, New York Daily News