Garrett (don’t call me Gary) Cooper in a Webb of Intrigue…

Mini Cooper he is not…

The Yankees have made their first trade of July 2017 with the acquisition of Garrett Cooper, a first baseman for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, the Triple A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers.  When I first heard that the Yankees had traded lefty reliever Tyler Webb to Milwaukee to acquire Cooper, I admit that I was skeptical.  I have not been following the Brewers farm system nor did I watch this week’s Triple A All-Star Game.  If I had, I would have realized that the Yankees have acquired a promising first baseman which happens to be a great need.  

Cooper was named the Pacific Coast League Player of the Week for the week ending July 9th.  He was also the starting first baseman for the PCL in the Triple A All-Star Game yesterday.  He has steadily progressed through the ranks.  He was taken in the 6th round of the 2013 MLB Draft by the Brewers, and is considered a “late bloomer” in the midst of a breakout year.  Cooper is currently hitting .366 with 17 HR and 82 RBI in 75 games for the Sky Sox.  There’s not much doubt he’ll soon be the latest Baby Bomber in Pinstripes even if he has never played a game for the organization.  He’s 26 and is a “big boy” (6’6″, 230 lbs).  He has benefited from the altitude of Colorado Springs and playing in a hitters’ league but why not roll the dice.  

After watching the Chicago Cubs send their top prospect, outfielder Eloy Jimenez, the #5 prospect in the MLB according to Baseball America’s midseason update, and other prospects to the Chicago White Sox for starting pitcher Jose Quintana, it’s clear that the cost of pitching is astronomical (as if we didn’t know that already).  There’s no way I would have signed off on a deal to send Gleyber Torres or even Clint Frazier to the White Sox for Quintana.  Let the Cubs fork over the farm.  This reinforces that the Yankees should stay the course and continue to build for the next few years and avoid the “quick fix” for the Wild Card.  So, I am okay with the under-the-radar moves that do not cost high-ranking prospects.  

I hated to see Webb go as I’ve liked the pitcher and I was excited that he finally had his opportunity at the big league level.  I felt that he performed well in his few appearances for the Yankees.  He obviously was not one of Joe Girardi’s “go to” guys in the pen but he played a valuable support role.  I guess all things considered, this was a modest cost for a guy who has torn apart Triple A pitching.  How that translates to the Major Leagues only time will tell.  But if my name was Ji-Man Choi, I’d probably be packing my bags.  Yanks will want to see how Cooper performs in the International League before making his MLB debut but the guy with the similar name to the actor who played Lou Gehrig in The Pride of the Yankees is on his way.  If he fields his position, knocks in a few runs, and doesn’t kill rallies by hitting into double plays, he’ll be better than anything we’ve seen yet at first base.  

Cooper has been assigned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  

Welcome to the Yankees, Garrett!

Sunday’s Recurring Theme: If Only…

Credit:  Seth Wenig-AP

Brewers 5, Yankees 3…

I guess three positive starts by Masahiro Tanaka was not enough to prove that the right-hander was back.  He followed up those three starts with another disappointing performance on a beautiful day in the Bronx as the Yankees fell to the Brew Crew.  Tanaka (7-8) lasted just 4 1/3 innings and 83 pitches, giving up 6 hits, 5 runs (including two home runs), and a walk.  He struck out 5 in the loss.  He didn’t have his best stuff on Sunday but he also didn’t receive much help.  If only…

Saturday’s hero, Clint Frazier, tried.  He had another homer but the big bats of Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez were a combined 2-for-9 with no homers or RBI’s and 5 strikeouts.  

The Brewers jumped on Tanaka right away with three runs in the first.  Jonathan Villar opened the game with a single.   Eric Thames singled to right to put runners at the corners.  After Domingo Santana struck out, former Red Sox third baseman Travis Shaw pummeled a Tanaka pitch over the bullpen in right to give the Brewers a 3-0 lead.  I wonder how much Boston wishes they still had Shaw (19 HR and 65 RBI) instead of Pablo Sandoval and fill-ins at third base.  The guy they traded for (former Brewers closer Tyler Thornburg) underwent season-ending surgery last month.  

The Brewers added another run in the top of the 2nd inning when Stephen Vogt, formerly of the Oakland A’s, opened with a solo shot to center which dropped into the bullpen.  4-0, Brewers.

The Yankees offense finally got something going in the 4th.  With two outs, Jacoby Ellsbury singled to left and subsequently stole second.  Headley singled to left, which scored Ellsbury with the Yankees’ first run.  Clint Frazier followed with his third homer as a Yankee, to right center, which brought the Yankees within one run, 4-3.  

Credit:  Seth Wenig-AP

After Tanaka gave up two one-out singles in the top of the 5th, his day was done.  Chasen Shreve was brought in and he lost the battle to the only batter he faced when Travis Shaw collected his 4th RBI of the day with a run-scoring single.  Adam Warren should be called The Cleaner because he’s always the one that has to clean up the mess.  He struck out both batters to get out of the inning without any further damage.  

The Yankees had a runner in scoring position in every inning from the 5th inning through the 9th but all were left stranded.  For a moment, it seemed as though the Yankees had taken a 6-5 lead on an apparent 3-run home run by Chase Headley in the 6th inning, but appeal and further review clearly showed the ball sailed just to the right of the right field foul pole so the homer was erased…yes, if only.  Headley subsequently went down swinging. It was another lost opportunity in a day of lost opportunities.  Brett Gardner was on second in the bottom of the 9th after he walked and stole a base, but Gary Sanchez took a called third strike to end the game.  Gary, Dude…if only.  The Brewers escaped with the 5-3 win.  

Credit:  UPI

I got my pre-game wish.  More Red Thunder and no Tyler Clippard.  But it was not enough.  If only we had won…

With the loss, the Yankees (45-41) dropped into a second place tie with the Tampa Bay Rays.  Both teams are 3 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox, who fell to the Rays, 5-3, on Sunday.  It was a very disappointing finish to the first half for the Yankees who had started the season so strongly.  I have no clue if the Yankees will be buyers or sellers at the end of the month, but I am in agreement with those who believe the Yankees are not yet a World Series contender.  I know that GM Brian Cashman feels a return to good health and a few enhancements could be the difference-maker but I’d hate to see the team make moves this year that might steal from 2018 or 2019 when the Yankees really will be World Series contenders.  But I admit, we do need a  new first baseman.

Odds & Ends…

Matt Holliday played DH for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders on Sunday in their 5-2 loss to the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.  His lone hit in four at-bats was a run-scoring single.

The Home Run Derby is tonight.  I have already completed my bracket and have Aaron Judge emerging as the victor over Giancarlo Stanton but I do think that Gary Sanchez could get on a roll to steal this one.  It’s unfortunate that he drew Stanton as his first round opponent.  Former Yankee Clay Bellinger will serve as the Derby pitcher for his son, Cody.  I am sure Yankee fans will be paying close attention to Aaron Judge’s first round opponent given the trade rumors swirling about the potential trade of Justin Bour to the Yankees.

Have a great Monday!  Let’s Go Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge!  Enjoy the HR Derby!

Solution: 15 K’s & Red Thunder…

Credit:  Al Bello-Getty Images

Yankees 5, Brewers 3…

Finally!  A fun and dramatic game.  Clint Frazier was the man of the hour with three hits.  The first hit broke up a no-hitter by Milwaukee starter Brent Suter in the fifth inning.  The second hit brought the Yankees within a run when the ball landed on top of the Stub Hub sign in left for a triple to score two runs.  The third hit was a game-winning walk-off home run to left as the Yankees overcame the Brewers on Saturday afternoon.

The first inning didn’t get started on the right foot.  After Eric Thames looped a double to right field, Travis Shaw was awarded first base in a controversial “hit by pitch”.  The umpire didn’t react until Shaw said something which caused the ump to send Shaw to first base, drawing the ire of Manager Joe Girardi.  Girardi could be overheard saying “He called it, you didn’t call it”.  The TV replays, to me, were inconclusive.  If the ball hit Shaw, it was fabric only but even then, the jersey didn’t move as the ball passed through to the catcher’s mitt.

Credit:  Julio Cortez-AP

Domingo Santana followed with a fly ball just over the right field wall which gave the Brewers an early 3-0 lead.

Credit:  Getty Images

For the Brewers, it would be the end of their offensive show for the day.  Luis Severino made the necessary adjustments (I hope you were watching, Michael Pineda!) and shut the Brewers down for the next six innings.  By the time he departed, he had pitched 7 innings, allowing 6 hits and the 3 runs allowed via the first inning home run.  He walked two, both in the 6th inning, while striking out 10.  It was a no-decision for him but the Yankees do not win this game without Severino’s performance.

Credit:  Julio Cortez-AP

The Yankees had a scoring opportunity in the 2nd inning when Didi Gregorius lofted a fly ball to center.  Four Brewers converged at the same time and the ball fell between them for an error on Brewers shortstop Orlando Arcia.  But the Yankees were subsequently caught with awful base-running. Chase Headley hit a come-backer to the pitcher and the Brewers had Didi caught between second and third.  Didi didn’t try to extend the rundown and the Brewers were able to tag Didi out and nail Headley off first base for the double play.  If Didi had tried to evade the tag, it would have given Headley the time to get back to first.

The Yankee bats were silent until the fifth inning when Clint Frazier finally collected the Yankees’ first hit off Brent Suter, a two-out single to right.  The Yankees weren’t able to do anything with it but it was a start.

After Luis Severino struck out Eric Thames with a runner in scoring position to end the top of the 7th, the Yankees finally got some runs on the board.  Chase Headley hit a one-out ground rule double to center.  Jacoby Ellsbury singled to move Headley to third.  A failed pick-off attempt at first allowed Headley to score while Ellsbury moved to third.  Clint Frazier hit a fly ball that momentarily looked to be a home run but it bounced off the lower part of the left field wall for a triple which scored Ellsbury.  The Yankees had closed the gap to 3-2.  Ji-Man Choi, pinch hitting for Austin Romine, and Ronald Torreyes were unable to bring Frazier home.

Onto the 8th inning and it was time for the Yankees bullpen which has been an Achilles Heel in recent days.  Dellin Betances took the mound in relief of Severino.  It was a ‘hold your breath’ moment until Betances proved to be the All-Star that he is, allowing everyone to exhale.  He induced Ryan Braun to ground out and then struck out both Travis Shaw and Domingo Santana.  Whew…Welcome back, Dellin!

Credit:  Corey Sipkin-New York Post

The Yankees were unable to generate any offense in the bottom of the 8th.  Moving to the top of the 9th, Aroldis Chapman replaced Betances.  Chapman has struggled with his command in recent games, but not yesterday. Three strikeouts later, it was off the bottom of the 9th with the Yankees still trailing by one run.  The Brewers brought in their strong closer, Corey Knebel, who has been a very pleasant surprise for the Brewers this year.  Knebel has struck out 72 batters in 41 innings while saving 13 games for Milwaukee.  He came into the game having only allowed 5 runs in 41 games.  The only knock against him is a tendency to walk too many batters. The weakness appeared right away as Didi Gregorius walked to open the inning on four straight balls.  Chase Headley went down swinging but Jacoby Ellsbury, like Didi, also walked on four straight balls as Knebel continued to struggle with his control.  So, the Yankees had runners at first and second with one-out when Red Thunder strolled to the plate.  After a ball in the dirt, Knebel grooved a 97 mph four-seam fastball down the middle.  With his blazing bat speed, Frazier quickly blasted a shot into the left field stands for the game-winning three-run home run as the Yankees won the game, 5-3.

Credit:  Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Aroldis Chapman (2-0) was the winner.  The Yankees (45-40) were able to pick up a game on the Boston Red Sox so they are 3.5 games out in the AL East.  The Tampa Bay Rays remain a game behind the Yankees, courtesy of their 1-0 victory over the Red Sox.

Credit:  Julio Cortez-AP

The Yankees conclude the first half today when Masahiro Tanaka (7-7, 5.25 ERA) takes the mound against Milwaukee’s Jimmy Nelson (7-4, 3.20 ERA).  Hopefully, yesterday’s dramatic win and stellar bullpen work provide the momentum for a new surge by the home team.

Odds & Ends…

The rumor mill is certainly heating up.  Within the last 24 hours, it has been reported the Yankees have heavy interest in first baseman Justin Bour of the Miami Marlins and reliever Brad Hand of the San Diego Padres.  I am always a little suspect of the trade rumors you openly hear about as GM Brian Cashman generally plays his cards close to the vest.  The more likely trades are the ones that you never hear about in advance. I would love to have Hand in the bullpen but the issue is cost.  I’d hate to lose Chance Adams or Miguel Andujar (a couple of the names that have been mentioned). There would be a bit of irony with the Marlins (which includes Manager Don Mattingly) sending Bour to New York to be the Yankees first baseman.  Bour hit his 20th homer of the year yesterday in Miami’s 5-4 victory over the San Francisco Giants.  There’s no doubt he’d be an upgrade over Ji-Man Choi.

Credit:  Ben Margot-AP

The YES Network’s Michael Kay mentioned an interesting stat during the telecast.  Yesterday was the 17-year anniversary of the Yankees’ double-header sweep over the New York Mets which featured games at both home parks.  Dwight Gooden and Roger Clemens were the winning pitchers in the subway double-header.  It’s hard to believe that it has been 17 years as I can clearly remember that day well.  It was a preview of the memorable Fall Classic that would pit the two teams against each other.

Matt Holliday was 2-for-4, both singles, with two runs scored in his rehab assignment for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.  The RailRiders won the game, 8-1, over the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.  Jake Cave was 3-for-3 with 2 HR’s and 5 RBI’s.  Miguel Andujar also chipped in a home run.

Have a great Sunday!  I am looking forward to more Red Thunder! But, please, no Tyler Clippard. Let’s Go Yankees!

Warning: Highly Flammable…

Credit:  Kathy Willens-AP

Brewers 9, Yankees 4…

In a game that should have been about young Aaron Judge shattering a mark long held by the great Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio, Tyler Clippard  torched a chance at yet another win as the Yankees fell to the Milwaukee Brewers.

We have gone from hoping the starters can successfully get the game to the bullpen to “OMG Joe, don’t take ‘the starter’ (insert name) out!”.  

But first, Aaron Judge.  With his 30th home run of the season, Judge broke the Yankees season record for most home runs by a rookie which has been held by Joe DiMaggio since 1936.  The homer, a shot to center off Brewers reliever Josh Hader, traveled 432 feet.  Judge has reached base in 37 consecutive games that he started, the only blemish being a recent unsuccessful pinch hit appearance.  He is also only one of three Yankees to ever have 30 home runs by the All-Star Break (joining Roger Maris who had 33 in his historic 1961 season and Alex Rodriguez who had 30 in 2007).  

Credit:  Mike Stobe-Getty Images

As for the game, it was a bend and mostly not break performance for Jordan Montgomery.  He worked out of a potential run scoring opportunity for the Brewers when they had two on with no outs in the second inning and got out of the inning by striking out Keon Broxton with a runner at third.  

With one out in the bottom of the second inning, Didi Gregorius lined a sharp fly ball to right but right fielder Domingo Santana made a slight turn in the wrong direction that caused him to miss Didi’s ball as it glanced off his glove for an error.  Didi ended up at third on the play.  Clint Frazier followed with a sacrifice fly and it was 1-0 Yankees.

The Brewers finally got to Montgomery in the 4th inning when Ryan Braun opened with a double and Jesus Aguilar homered to right as the Brewers took the 2-1 lead.  The Yankees came right back in the bottom of the inning when Didi Gregorius reached first base on another fielding error and Ji-Man Choi, providing something that we have rarely seen from the team’s first basemen…production, homered in the rain to right.  “Track, Wall, See Ya!” courtesy of Michael Kay. The Yankees had re-taken the lead with the second deck towering blast, 3-2.  

The rain started coming down in buckets and the game moved into a delay.  When play resumed in the top of the 5th, Montgomery got into trouble again when Orlando Arcia and Jonathan Villar hit consecutive one-out singles.  I am sure the rain delay factored into his performance.  Tyler Webb was brought in to replace Monty and he induced Domingo Santana to hit into an inning-ending double play.  For the game, Monty went 4 1/3 innings, giving up 7 hits and the two-run homer.  He didn’t walk anyone and struck out 4 in the eventual no-decision.  In the bottom of the inning, Judge led off with his historic home run.  4-2, Yankees.

Webb was back out on the mound in the top of the 6th.  He walked Ryan Braun on a 3-2 count and former Red Sock Travis Shaw followed with a double to push Braun to third.  Then, in a move that brought a groan from me, Manager Joe Girardi pulled Webb and brought in the flammable Tyler Clippard.  A wild pitch allowed Braun to score and Shaw to move to third.  Jesus Aguilar lofted a fly to center that scored Shaw and the game was tied.  

The Yankees were unable to do anything in the bottom of the 6th as Josh Hader and the Brewers struck out the side.  

With another groan when I saw Clippard back out on the mound for the 7th, any optimism I had was quickly evaporating.  With one out, Clippard walked Jonathan Villar and Domingo Santana.  A fly out by Ryan Braun moved the runners to second and third.  Clippard issued an intentional pass to Travis Shaw and the bases were loaded for the only reliever who is worse than Dellin Betances right now.  Jesus Aguilar, loving every minute of Yankee Stadium, took advantage of the opportunity and destroyed the Clippard offering for a grand slam with a blast to center (his second homer of the night).  I know that Girardi was trying to avoid using Chad Green or Adam Warren, but Clippard should have never been the guy on the mound at that point in the game.  When I fire up the grill, I don’t use lighter fluid, I just throw pics of Clippard on the charcoal and flames erupt.

Girardi pulled Clippard at that point, but his replacement, Chasen Shreve, had the Clippard-Betances Syndrome and gave up another run with the first two men he faced.  A double by Hernan Perez and a single by Manny Pina (who?) which scored Perez.  The Brewers had the 9-4 lead and coasted to the four-hit victory.  Clippard (1-5) took the loss with his fifth blown game.  

The Yankees (44-40) are on the fast track for third place in the AL East.  The Boston Red Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 8-3, to pad their lead by 4.5 games.  But even with the loss, the Rays are just a game behind the Yankees.

Brett Gardner had four walks in the game but wasn’t able to do anything with the free passes.  He was caught stealing third in the 3rd inning.  Clint Frazier, in addition to the sac fly RBI, had a triple in the 8th with one out, but was left stranded.

I remember back in the good old days when the Yankees bullpen meant a complete shutdown of the opposition’s offense.  I miss those days…  

Credit:  MLB.com

Odds & Ends…

When an “unnamed Yankees insider” speaks, it always sounds exactly like the words are coming out of the mouth of Yankees Idiot…sorry I mean…President, Randy Levine.  The “insider” told The New York Daily News, speaking about Greg Bird, that “You have to wonder what’s with this guy.  You’d think with Judge and Sanchez, the guys he came up through the system with, doing so well up here, he’d want to be part of this.  Apparently not.”  I may be frustrated that Bird  has been unable to get back on the field with his ankle injury but I do not blame the player.  If he feels that he is not 100% and would be a liability on the field, I will not fault him for trying to find pain relief and good health before he returns.  Bird responded “I want to play.  I’ve always wanted to play since I can remember.  I love baseball.  For me, I’m doing everything I can to come back.  I love it and I want to be playing with these guys.  I would hope people see it”.  I see it and wish that Levine would shut the h*ll up…

Bird will consult with Dr Martin O’Malley, a foot and ankle surgeon, on Monday.  So, we should have clarity on whether or not he’s lost for the season soon.  This is shaping up to be two consecutive lost years for the young slugger. 

Credit:  Seth Wenig-AP

Matt Holliday and Starlin Castro are now expected to rejoin the Yankees when they open the second half next week in Boston.  Holliday is going to start a rehab assignment today.  Castro bowed out of the All-Star Game and in a move that was a little bittersweet (for me) to take, Robinson Cano of the Seattle Mariners was named as his replacement.  Nothing against Cano as I still think he’s a good player, but it’s a reminder of the sting I felt when he left in free agency.  

In a surprise move today, the Yankees have optioned Jordan Montgomery and Luis Cessa to Triple-A and have recalled relievers Ben Heller and Jonathan Holder.  I can only assume that the moves were made to strengthen the Yankees bullpen in light of Clippard’s meltdown.  Montgomery will be back after the All-Star break.

Have a great Saturday!  A new day and a new opportunity to win a game.  Let’s Go Yankees!

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions…

To Buy or Not to Buy…

The MLB Trading Deadline is just a mere 24 days away.  At 4 pm ET on Tuesday, July 31st, we’ll know the answer if the Yankees will be buyers or sellers.  If the freefall continues, the odds are stronger toward the latter.  However, none of the current Yankee veterans potentially available fall into the ‘sell high’ category like Aroldis Chapman, Carlos Beltran, and Andrew Miller did last summer.  If the Yankees indeed become sellers, I would look at Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Austin Romine, Chase Headley, Rob Refsnyder, Jacoby Ellsbury (yeah, right…we’re stuck with this one), and Brett Gardner.  Depending upon the return, I could be coerced into others.  There are really no untouchables outside of Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez.  I don’t think Aroldis Chapman is going anywhere, but otherwise, I think everyone else could be had for the right price.  

The Los Angeles Dodgers are currently 58-29 and are on pace to win 108 games with their current winning percentage (.667).  They have the best pitcher in baseball (Clayton Kershaw) but he might not even the best pitcher on their staff if you look purely at stats.  Alex Wood is 10-0 with a very low 1.67 ERA in 13 starts.  Kershaw has 3 more wins but with 5 more starts.  Wood has given the Dodgers the second starter they’ve been missing since Zack Greinke left.  As the Dodgers march toward a potential historic season, they have the inconsistent Kenta Maeda (6-4, 4.56 ERA) and the injury-plagued Brandon McCarthy (6-3, 3.25 ERA) to go with Kershaw, Wood and Rich Hill.  The rotation would look so much better with Masahiro Tanaka, based on his last three starts, than either Maeda or McCarthy.

Brett Gardner to the San Francisco Giants has long made sense to me.  He’d easily fit into Bruce Bochy’s lineup and give them the left-fielder that they’ve literally been waiting years for.  

I honestly hope the Yankees regain their magical step from earlier in the season.  My clear preference is to buy at the trading deadline.  But the realist in me recognizes there is the strong possibility we’ll be sellers if the team continues on its current path so we must be prepared.  It hurt to lose Andrew Miller last summer and it still does.  Regardless of how Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield perform as Yankees, our fondness for Miller will never be replaced.  But moves have to be made to better the team for the long run.  The Boston Red Sox are showing signs of potentially running away with the AL East.  The Yankees soon will have to make the decision to go all in for a Wild Card spot or chalk this year up to development.

Since June 13th, when the Los Angeles Angels ended the Yankees’ six-game winning streak with a 3-2 victory in Anaheim, the Yankees are a meager 6-16.  The top three guys in the bullpen, excluding Adam Warren at this point, are unreliable at best.  Aroldis Chapman has struggled with control issues that would be magnified if not for the horrific performances by Tyler Clippard and more recently Dellin Betances.  Clearly, this group has the potential…and the history…to be dominant but continued struggles only help push the Yankees further into the downward spiral.  

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

The July schedule, simply put, is tough.  After the All-Star Game break, the team heads to Boston for a four-game series with the Red Sox.  It concludes with a day/night double-header on Sunday, July 16th.  Following the second game, the Yankees have to jump on a plane to fly to Minneapolis, MN to play the Minnesota Twins the next night.  The Twins are no slouch, holding a 44-41 record and just a game and a half out in the AL Central, entering games today.  After three days in the Twin Cities, the Yanks hop a westbound plane for Seattle to face Robinson Cano and the Mariners with no break.  The Mariners currently have a losing record but the Yankees always seem to bring out the best in Cano.  This year he’ll be joined by another player with incentive to beat the Yankees in young outfielder Ben Gamel, a former Yankees farmhand.  Flying home to NYC following the three-game series with the M’s, the Yanks get one day off before a two-game set against the Cincinnati Reds which rolls over into a four-game stand with the Tampa Bay Rays, the team currently nipping at the Yanks’ heels.  July 31st, while we sit and wait for the trading deadline dust to settle in the afternoon, the Yankees will begin a three-game with the Detroit Tigers.  August doesn’t get any easier with the Cleveland Indians, Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, New York Mets, Detroit Tigers and Seattle Mariners on tap.  In other words, the schedule is a bitch.  

The Yankees have to find a way to win the one-run games now, not later.  They need to resolve the bullpen failures and they need to significantly upgrade at least one of the infield corners.  Otherwise, even making it to .500 by year’s end will be a challenge.

I hate to say it but it is my current opinion (which could easily be changed by a winning streak) that the Yankees will be sellers at the deadline as we await bigger and better things in 2018 and 2019.  

Will Today be a Holliday?…

All signs are pointing to the return of DH Matt Holliday today.  Diagnosed with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), the most common viral infection in humans, Holliday is feeling better and getting ready to return.  Many people afflicted by EBV don’t even know they have it since they do not feel sick.  I am glad to hear that they finally have a handle on what has ailed Holliday.  The Yankees have missed his stick in the lineup.  Plus, his occasional starts at first base have helped get production out of the team’s biggest black hole.  I hope he is able to make a successful return today or if not, this weekend.

Odds & Ends…

The Yankees created some organizational depth when they acquired infielder Jonathan Diaz this week from the Toronto Blue Jays.  Diaz, 32, was having a subpar year in the Blue Jays farm system, but he was with the RailRiders last season and will provide them with infield depth again this year.  Billy Fleming was sent from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to Double-A Trenton to make room.  We’ll never see Diaz at the MLB level but he helps the RailRiders who have suffered multiple recent losses due to Baby Bomber promotions.  In his first game with the RailRiders, Diaz hit a single that started their winning rally, a 4-3 victory in extra innings over Diaz’s former club, the Buffalo Bisons.  Meanwhile, at Trenton, Fleming hit a two-run homer off MLB pitcher (on rehab assignment) Vince Velasquez to power the Thunder to a 6-3 victory over the Reading Fightin Phils.


Speaking of organizational depth, Mason Williams has cleared waivers and was outrighted to SWB.  It is a chance for Williams to make a case for redemption.  The one dude who I hope isn’t outrighted to SWB is Chris Carter.  I am ready for him to collect a paycheck elsewhere although the Yankees will be paying him good money for the rest of the year to do whatever he desires.  Maybe some time at a batting cage, mixed in with some fielding lessons might be a good idea.

Justus Sheffield has been placed on the DL by the Double-A Trenton Thunder.  Sheffield is dealing with a strained oblique and adds to the number of medically-impaired Yankees.  Mike Ford, the next first baseman on the food chain (Triple A), is dealing with a hamstring injury and hoping to avoid the DL.


Of the trade possibilities, I am very intrigued at the prospect Marcus Stroman may be available if the Blue Jays become sellers at the trading deadline.  Trading within the division is always very difficult (although the Yankees do not seem to have a problem giving relievers to the Baltimore Orioles).  But if GM Brian Cashman could pull it off, Stroman would be a very popular guy in the Bronx.  The 26-year-old righty is not too much bigger than Ronald Torreyes at 5’8″ but he is one of the best arms in the AL East.  This year, he is 8-5 with 3.42 ERA.  He has averaged slightly more than 6 innings per start, and has struck out 87 batters in 105 1/3 innings.  The Long Island native would easily become a fan favorite if he added pinstripes to his wardrobe. 

Credit:  Tom Szczerbowski-Getty Images

No All-Star Game for Didi Gregorius.  Despite his awesome campaign for the AL Final Vote, the winner was Mike Moustakas of the Kansas City Royals.  Justin Turner of the Los Angeles Dodgers was the NL Final Vote winner.  I tried.  I submitted multiple text and internet votes for Sir Didi.  There’s no doubt he’s an All-Star.  On the bright side for him, he now gets a few days off to prepare for the Red Sox on the other side.  

Didi with his Mom

Have a great Friday!  Let’s kick this weekend off right with a win!  Let’s Go Yankees! 

50 Ways To Lose A Game…

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Blue Jays 7, Yankees 6…

I am not sure who to blame this one on.  Michael Pineda was awful at the beginning and Dellin Betances was awful near the end.  In between, the Yankees tried to make it a game but once again, the pitching staff gave away a freebie to the opponent as the Yankees fell to the Toronto Blue Jays.


The Blue Jays picked up their first run in the top of the 1st inning, aided by an error.  Jose Bautista led off the game with a single.  After Russell Martin flied out to center,  Justin Smoak singled.  An error by Jacoby Ellsbury, he bobbled Smoak’s hit, allowed Bautista to score and Smoak to move to second.  


The second inning saw the Blue Jays pick up a couple more hits but they were unable to score, thanks primarily to a double play that erased the first runner.  Pineda wasn’t so lucky in the 3rd inning.  Jose Bautista walked to open the inning.  After Russell Martin hit a grounder into a fielder’s choice that erased Bautista at second, Justin Smoak hit a two-run shot to right.  3-0, Blue Jays.  Then, Kendrys Morales followed Smoak with a solo shot to center, 4-0 Jays.  


Kevin Pillar led off the 4th inning with a homer to increase the Jays’ lead to 5-0.  The next batter, Ryan Goins, followed with a single which mercifully ended Pineda’s day.  3 innings, 9 hits, 5 runs, 3 HR’s.  If you want to know how you can ensure that you will not be part of the 2018 Yankees, just watch Pineda.  

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

The Yankees valiantly fought back.  Aaron Judge got the party started with a two-run shot in the 4th inning.  The home run, Judge’s 29th of the year, tied the Yankees record for most home runs in a season by a rookie held by Joe DiMaggio.  In the 5th inning, Jacoby Ellsbury opened with a single which brought Ji-Man Choi, making his Yankees debut in this game, to the plate.  Choi, bringing the cry of “Ji-Man is the He-Man!  Oh boy, oh Choi!” from radio announcer John Sterling, homered to right, bringing the Yankees within a run, 5-4.  

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Austin Romine and Brett Gardner then walked, and Aaron Judge singled to load the bases.  With two outs, Didi Gregorius doubled to right, bringing home both Romine and Gardner, as the Yankees captured their first lead of the game, 6-5.  


The Yankees remained in the lead until the 7th inning.  With Chad Green on the mound and working his second inning of relief, former Yankee Russell Martin led off with a solo shot to right center.  Game tied.  Green was able to man up after that and exited the 7th with no further damage.  


On to the 8th inning and Dellin Betances…



Back when I played softball, I used to get mad when the pitcher for our team would drink about 3 or 4 beers before the game and then struggle immensely while trying to find the strike zone, walking in runs.  Watching Dellin Betances pitch the 8th was kind of like that.  No offense but Betances is not an All-Star pitcher at this moment in time.  He walked the first three batters he faced (Miguel Montero, Kevin Pillar, and Ryan Goins) to load the bases.  He somehow found the strike zone for Jose Bautista but then walked Russell Martin to allow Montero to score the go-ahead (and eventual winning) run.  Adam Warren had to come in to clean up the mess.  

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

The Yankees did not have another rally in them.  The stage was set when Brett Gardner singled with two outs in the bottom of the 9th against Jays closer Roberto Osuna which brought Aaron Judge to the plate representing the tying and go-ahead runs.  A home run in that spot would have set up Judge as one of the greatest heroes of the new Yankee Stadium.  Unfortunately, that will have to wait for another day.  Judge went down swinging and the Yankees were pinned for yet another loss.  Betances (3-4) took the loss but based on that performance they should have given him 3 or 4 losses instead of just 1.  The last Yankees pitcher to walk four batters in a third of an inning or less was Edwar Ramirez in 2007.  Tyler Clippard included, this was one of the worst Yankee bullpen appearances of the year.  Adam Warren was perfect in his 1 2/3 innings of work.  I guess he missed the memo about mandatory bullpen implosions while he was on the DL.  

Credit:  Kathy Willens-AP

Some losses just make me mad.  This was one of them.  It’s as if the Yankees pitchers from Masahiro Tanaka to Tyler Clippard to Betances are passing the “I Suck!” stick with Aroldis Chapman auditioning for the next turn with the baton.  It doesn’t help when you also have Luis Severino and Michael Pineda fighting for a turn.


The Yankees (44-39) continue their downward spiral.  Fortunately, they didn’t lose any ground in the AL East as the Texas Rangers finally stopped the Boston Red Sox, 8-2.  The Yanks continue to trail the Sox by four games. The Tampa Bay Rays lost to the Chicago Cubs, 7-3, so they remain 1.5 games behind the Yankees.  

Next Up:  Milwaukee Brewers at Yankee Stadium

The Yankees will entertain the Milwaukee Brewers for the final series before the All-Star Break.  The Brewers are fresh off a three-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles in Milwaukee.  Here are the scheduled pitching match-ups:

FRIDAY

Brewers:  Junior Guerra (1-3, 4.93 ERA)

Yankees:  Jordan Montgomery (6-4, 3.62 ERA)

SATURDAY

Brewers:  Brent Suter (1-1, 3.00 ERA)

Yankees:  Luis Severino (5-4, 3.52 ERA)

SUNDAY

Brewers:  Jimmy Nelson (7-4, 3.20 ERA)

Yankees:  Masahiro Tanaka (7-7, 5.25 ERA)

Hopefully, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez can get in some good “practice” for Monday’s Home Run Derby.  With a four-game set in Boston to start the second half, Dellin Betances needs to find himself in this series.  

Odds & Ends…

The Yankees have reportedly added a few more international prospects. Dominican Republic:  Stanley Rosario, OF; Miguel Marte, SS; Albert Vega, RHP; Nelson Medina, CF; Ezequiel Duran, SS; and Jose Martinez, 3B.  Venezuela:  Engelbert Ascanio, C.  Previously, it was reported the Yankees have signed Everson Pereira, an outfielder from Venezuela (ranked fourth on BA’s list of top international prospects); Roberto Chirinos, a shortstop also from Venezuela; and Anthony Garcia, an outfielder from the Dominican Republic.  There is some question about which position Chirinos will play and it is possible that he may be switched to catcher.  The Yankees are also expected to sign Ronny Rojas, a shortstop from the Dominican Republic, when he turns 16 on August 23rd.  Gary Sanchez signed as a 16-year-old in 2009 which shows how long it will be before we potentially see any of these guys at the Major League level.  

Although CC Sabathia lost on the 4th of July, the starting pitchers for the Yankees’ top three farm teams celebrated the holiday with masterful pitching as they combined for 20 innings of scoreless ball.  Nice job, Baby Bombers!

AAA-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (7-0 win over the Buffalo Bisons):

Caleb Smith (8-0), 5.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER/R, 1 BB, 6 SO


AA-Trenton Thunder (2-0 win over the Reading Fightin Phils)

Brody Koerner (1-0), 8.0 IP, 9 H, 0 ER/R, 1 BB, 1 SO


High A-Tampa Yankees (2-1 win over the Fort Myers Miracle)

Ian Clarkin (no decision), 7.0 IP, 4 H, 0 ER/R, 0 BB, 5 SO


The Yankees have released LHP Tommy Layne, who had been pitching for Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after being designated for assignment earlier in the season.  I am okay with this move.  Make way for younger, talented arms.


Have a great Thursday!  I think all of us could stand a day guaranteed not to include a Yankees loss.  Tomorrow is a new day.  Let’s Go Yankees!

Yankee Doodle Bland-y…

Credit:  Rich Schultz-Getty Images

Blue Jays 4, Yankees 1…

The 4th of July is a great time for America as it celebrates the birth of our country.  Sadly, the Yankees were unable to provide any fireworks as they fell quietly to the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday.  

The game marked the return of CC Sabathia. Before the game, Manager Joe Girardi was hoping for 5 or 6 innings from Sabathia.  Unfortunately, it would prove to be something comparable to me hoping for winning PowerBall numbers. In retrospect, maybe CC should have taken a rehab assignment.  

The first inning went well enough as Sabathia retired the first three batters on fly outs to center, although he had Jacoby Ellsbury running hard for several of them.  The 2nd inning saw another three up, three down pass through the Jays lineup.  So far, so good.

Then, the 3rd inning happened.  The first two batters…no problem.  Steve Pearce flied out to left and Kevin Pillar struck out swinging.  Then, with two outs, Darwin Barney walked.  A wild pitch by Sabathia moved Barney to second.  Joey Bats followed with a single to right, scoring Barney.  Russell Martin singled and Josh Donaldson walked to load the bases.  Adam Warren got up in the bullpen to begin warming up.  On a 3-2 count, Sabathia threw Ball 4, high and outside, to Justin Smoak, which scored Bautista.  Kendrys Morales stepped up and lined a single to left through the hole, which scored Martin and Donaldson.  4-0 Blue Jays and it was shower time for Sabathia.  Warren came in to record the final out but the damage was done.  63 pitches by Sabathia (39 in the 3rd inning alone) and he was clearly laboring at the end.  He finished with 3 hits and 4 runs in 2 2/3 innings, walking 3 and striking out just 1.  Sabathia (7-3) saw his season ERA inflate to 3.81.  

Credit:  Kathy Willens-AP

The Yankees’ lone highlight came in the bottom of the 4th when All-Star Aaron Judge crushed a J.A. Happ pitch 456 feet to center, a line drive, for his 28th home run of the year.  The Statcast exit velocity of the ball was measured at 118.4 mph.  One more home run and Judge will match the Yankees rookie season HR record held by Joe DiMaggio. 

Credit:  Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

From there, the Yankees could not muster any further offense against Happ or the Jays bullpen.  Happ, a 20-game winner in 2016, picked up only his 3rd win of the year with six strong innings, holding the Yankees to four hits and the lone run.  The Jays pen held the Yankees hitless for the duration of the game.  It was a nice job by the Yankees bullpen too, most notably the 4 2/3 innings of scoreless relief provided by Luis Cessa.  

The Yankees will attempt to take the series today with a win before the Jays leave town.  Tomorrow represents an off day (finally).  In their final series before the All-Star Break, the Yankees will host the Milwaukee Brewers for three games beginning Friday.  

The Yankees (44-38) slid four games behind Boston as the Red Sox beat the Texas Rangers, 11-4.  Boston’s on a roll now with their sixth consecutive victory.   The Tampa Bay Rays are quietly sneaking up on the Yankees for second place as they are now just 1 1/2 games in back of the Pinstripers.  The Rays beat their former manager Joe Maddon and the Chicago Cubs yesterday, 6-5.  

It would have been great if the Yankees could have won on the birthdays of the United States and late owner George Steinbrenner but it was not meant to be.  We can only hope that the winning magic will return today.  Michael Pineda can make it happen.  

Odds & Ends…

After yesterday’s game, the Yankees dumped Chris Carter again.  It’s time for Carter to seek employment elsewhere.  In his final game for the Yankees, Carter was 0-for-2 and dropped a ball from Didi Gregorius in the 7th that was scored a hit for Joey Bats.  Fortunately for us, the Yankees decided it was time to pull the plug on Chris Carter Experiment II and have promoted first baseman Ji-Man Choi from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to take his place.  In 55 games for the RailRiders, Choi, formerly of the Los Angeles Angels, hit 8 HR’s and 41 RBI’s while batting .286.  Choi is not the answer but at this point, he’s better than the man he replaced.  Choi will be available for today’s game.  

Credit:  J Conrad Williams Jr-Newsday

The Yankees’ decision to send Bryan Mitchell to Triple A on Tuesday rather than Luis Cessa was based on the desire for Mitchell to continue working as a starter for potential help in the rotation later in the season if necessary.  

Credit:  J Conrad Williams Jr-Newsday

Logan Morrison, shut up.  The Rays first baseman called out Gary Sanchez on Tuesday when he said the Yankees catcher did not deserve to participate in next week’s Home Run Derby.  In the midst of a career season, Morrison said “I remember when I had 14 home runs (Sanchez currently has 13).  That was a month and a half ago.”  Morrison was not selected for the All-Star Game and is currently one of five listed on the AL Final Vote ballot, along with Didi Gregorius and Mike Moustakas.  Even if Morrison somehow won the Final Vote, I seriously doubt that baseball fans would want to see him over Sanchez in the Home Run Derby.  Morrison can go spend next week in Tampa or Kansas City or wherever he’s from while Sanchez heads for Miami.  

Have a great Wednesday!  I prefer to see this as Winnin’ Wednesday.  Let’s Go Yankees!