Tagged: Aaron Hicks

Baseball’s Back…or is it?

MLB Season slowly makes its return…

So, we will finally have some baseball soon. After the painful back and forth between the MLB Owners and the MLBPA which cast doubt on a potential season, I am glad they finally found a way to make it happen even if it wasn’t the product of an amiable agreement. 

Coronavirus continues to present itself as a factor which could create havoc for the restructured shortened season. Friday saw the largest single day increase of the virus (with over 45,000 new cases) as states continue reopening. The numbers since this pandemic started have been staggering. 2.4 million cases reported and over 125,000 deaths. Notable baseball players, such as Charlie Blackmon of the Colorado Rockies, have been diagnosed with the virus. I heard a news report that for every person diagnosed, there are ten undiagnosed people who have been infected which shows the reason for fear.

SNY’s Andy Martino reported this week about the amended language added to the March agreement the MLB Owners executed and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred placed into force that gives the Commissioner the right to stop the season if necessary. Based on Manfred’s decisions in the Commissioner’s office up to this point, this type of power does not exactly inspire confidence. Per Martino, this paragraph was added:

“The Commissioner retains the right to suspend or cancel the 2020 championship season or postseason, or any games therein, in the event that (i) restrictions on travel throughout the United States are imposed; (ii) there is a material change in circumstances such that the Commissioner determines, after consultation with recognized medical experts and the Players Association, that it poses an unreasonable health and safety risk to players or staff to stage those games, even without fans in attendance; or (III) The number of players who are unavailable to perform services due to COVID-19 is so great that the competitive integrity of the season is undermined.”

Martino referenced the first two covenants were agreed to by the two parties during their back and forth negotiations. The third covenant is the newly added wording that empowers Manfred to throw in the towel if the coronavirus threatens the integrity of the season. No doubt, while we hope for the best, we need to prepare for the worst. 

Setting the threat of doom and gloom aside, I am happy there soon will be baseball activity. Next  week we’ll see the players begin reporting to their home stadiums for the start of “summer” training. The images of players throwing, catching and hitting will be a very welcome sight. I still find it humorous Aaron Hicks will be ready for the rescheduled Opening Day after his off-season Tommy John surgery. While I do not know if that’s ever happened before (I don’t think it has), it’s certainly a first for the Yankees. Listening to the R2C2 podcast this week, I enjoyed CC Sabathia’s observation that if you beat Hicks in a game, he wants to keep playing until he figures out how to beat you. The perfect mindset for a Major League baseball player.

I am not sure what to think about the 60-game schedule which will see the Yankees play 10 games against each of their division rivals, and unbalanced games against NL East teams for the remaining 20 games (making the Mets the most frequent opponent for those games). It will be a season of reunions with Dellin Betances (Mets), Didi Gregorius (Phillies), Starlin Castro (Nationals), and Joe Girardi (Phillies manager), among others. I get keeping the Yankees in the Eastern time zone to limit travel. It’s kind of nice there will be no West Coast games and their late starts but I am a little saddened it also means there will be no visit to the Bronx by the Houston Cheaters…at least not until October if the paths of the two teams cross. I am glad the Astros will have to play in Los Angeles against the Dodgers but a Bronx crowd would be harder on Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve and company than the laid-back, seventh-inning departing sunny Southern CA crowd…if fans are even allowed to come into the stadiums. For the Astros, the coronavirus is probably the best thing that could have happened for them to deflect the deserved Bronx cheer they undoubtedly would have experienced across the country from normal, fan-filled stadiums. At least the Red Sox have to come to New York, but it’s not quite the same since their level of cheating didn’t broach the heights of the Astros scandal. 

Although the MLB trading deadline will be pushed to August 31st, it is doubtful there will be much trading activity this year. There’s a part of me that kind of hopes the game stoppage has impacted the Cleveland Indians to the point that they need to unload shortstop Francisco Lindor. I know, that’s mean. Sorry Terry Francona. But Lindor would look awfully good in Pinstripes. 

Photo Credit: Al Bello, Getty Images


I like the new extra inning rule, even if it is temporary, that puts a runner on second (the last out of the ninth inning or a designated runner) to start the tenth inning of extra inning games. Hello Tyler Wade. I am not a fan of those long extended inning games and prefer conclusion sooner rather than later. The obvious downside is giving the visiting team the advantage as it forces the home team to play catch-up if the runner scores. Mike Axisa mentioned the likelihood teams would sacrifice the runner to third and the next batter would be potentially walked to create the double-play possibility. Axisa’s suggestion was to cut to the chase, eliminate the extra time, and simply put runners at the corners. Makes sense to me. Axisa also mentioned the home team should bat first to gain the advantage. Another strong point. I am kind of hoping there is some success with the interim rule so that we’ll see some permanent form in the future.  Baseball is not meant to be played at midnight or 1 am, in my opinion.

Congratulations to the newest Yank, catcher Austin Wells, the first round selection of the Yankees in the recent shortened MLB draft. I was getting a little concerned when so much time had passed without news of his signing while other teams were locking up multiple draft picks. Fortunately, the Yankees finally got the signature of the former Boston Red Sox fan on the dotted line by paying him slightly more than the $2,493,900 recommended slot value. 

I haven’t seen any news about the other two draftees, Trevor Hauver and Beck May, but hopefully they’ll sign soon.

I’ve watched as people moan about the Yankees taking another catcher (they took two high level catchers in the 2018 draft, the year Wells was selected in the 35th round, in Anthony Seigler and Josh Breaux). According to MLB.com, Seigler is currently ranked as the 15th best prospect in the Yankees organization and Breaux comes in at 23. 2018 international free agent signee Antonio Gomez, only 18, sits a spot ahead of Breaux, which gives the Yankees three catchers in their top 25. Heck, I still miss Luis Torrens, the young catcher the Yankees lost to the San Diego Padres a few years ago in the Rule 5 draft. 

Primarily, I believe you can never have enough good catchers. Not every one will pan out and catching tends to be a high position of need for many teams, creating valuable trade chips.  There is no assurance Wells will even remain at the position. His bat will play regardless of position and there has been talk he is a future first baseman or left fielder. Regardless of what the future holds, I am glad the Bishop Gorman high school product (Las Vegas) and University of Arizona Wildcat is a Yankee. Homers are always welcome and Wells’ bat intends to be heard. Welcome to the Yankees family, Austin!

Spring training participant Chad Bettis, the former Colorado Rockies hurler and cancer survivor, has retired. I was doubtful he would make the Yankees but it’s hard not to root for a guy like him. There was a time when he was among the best starting pitchers with the Rockies but it’s been a tough road for him the last several years. The Yankees released him from his minor league contract after the retirement announcement. I do wish Bettis the best for whatever the future holds for him and I hope it is a happy and healthy life moving forward. 

I am fearful Gerrit Cole will decide to opt out of the season as a high risk athlete with a pregnant wife at home. His recent workouts at Yankee Stadium seem to imply he is “all in” but until he’s officially wearing Pinstripes, staring down Major League hitting opponents, nothing’s for sure. If he opted out, I would be very disappointed, as I am sure you would be too, but conversely, it would be hard to find fault with his decision. He has to do what makes the most sense for him and his family. If that means no baseball in 2020, I’d respect his decision (while quietly crying inside). 

I’d love to see some positive news about the health of Aaron Judge. I guess we’ll soon see when training camp resumes but Judge has clearly been the off-season mystery at least from a health perspective. Nothing against Clint Frazier, Mike Tauchman, or even Giancarlo Stanton, but I want to see Judge in right field on Opening Day.  Hopefully I am not asking for too much.

I am glad we can start talking about baseball again. This has been a very trying and painful year for so many reasons. The Yankees give us an exciting distraction from the brutal realities of life.  Who knows how this year will conclude but early predictions have the Yankees emerging as the World Series champion. A weird year to win a championship, sure, but ultimately a championship is a championship and I’d gladly embrace it without a caveat. 

As always, Go Yankees!

To Be or Not To Be, MLB is the Question…

Photo Credit: Mark Cunningham, Getty Images


Players Association Expected to Vote Today…

I had hoped that we could be talking about the Yankees and actual baseball by now but, sadly, we’re not. As the pain back and forth continues, we’re caught in the middle. The players will vote today regarding the MLB Owners’ latest proposal (instead of “a few days” according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale). The billionaire boys club is proposing a 60-game schedule with full pro rata pay which includes expanded playoffs and a universal DH in both leagues.

I don’t know. I am starting to lose interest in salvaging this season. I thought a schedule of 82 games was the last hope for meaningful baseball.  60 games does not really prove anything except which teams get hot at the right time which will not necessarily the best teams in the game. I know the expanded playoffs are a financial boon for the owners but it further dilutes our ability to see the best teams play.

I am disappointed. If the Yankees still manage to win the World Series this year (assuming they actually play), I’ll be happy and I won’t place a caveat on the season. By the same token, if the Chicago White Sox blaze through with a rapid ascension of their young talent, it wouldn’t surprise and I wouldn’t place a caveat on them either. Nevertheless, this will be a strange, perplexing year no matter how it ends. From a sports fan’s perspective, it might be the worst year of our lifetimes.

Seeing the Instagram pics Gerrit Cole posted, throwing from the Yankee Stadium mound in shorts was not exactly the image I wanted to see this summer in the Bronx. I would have preferred pinstripes and real competition.  It’s a sad reminder of what we are missing.

Photo Credit: Gerrit Cole via Instagram, @gerritcole45


I am bummed we are missing out on a year of the careers of our favorite players. The life of a baseball player is short even if you can make it to the Major Leagues.  In some cases, a player may only get a year or two (or less). The time lost could mean guys who might have made it never will.  Players on the downslope are still on a downward trajectory despite no games. Time and age will not wait for anybody except for maybe Tom Brady. Players in their prime move closer to the edge of downward spiral. Who knows what magical moments might have happened so far in the 2020 season if it had started on schedule. Or missing the beautiful sights and sounds of great baseball fans everywhere hurtling deserved insults and boos at the Houston Astros. 

I feel MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has been largely ineffective since he took over the role from Bud Selig. I have felt the players have reasonably tried to make the season happen while the owners are most concerned about how to protect their investments (the dollars, not the players). These tense negotiations are setting up a very contentious, difficult battle after the 2021 season when the current collective bargaining agreement expires. 

Frankly, if the next few days only bring more rejections, I will be officially on board with shit-canning the season. 

I am truly at the ‘why bother?’ stage. The MLB owners obviously do not care about us so why should we care about them? I’d love to see some decisions made “for the good of the game”.

If Baseball somehow finds a way to play this year, it does seem weird the Yankees will have to use Yankee Stadium to hold “Spring” Training. Since the seasons changed yesterday, I guess this makes the first Summer Training for MLB. With spring training homes closed in Florida due to the coronavirus, Governor Andrew Cuomo has said the Yankees (and the Mets) have permission to use their New York stadiums for training purposes. Too bad they didn’t leave the old Yankee Stadium up. Then they would have had two legitimate baseball fields to work with. As it stands, they have the single main field of the current Yankee Stadium, four bullpen mounds and an indoor batting facility. I guess they should model Adam Ottavino’s idea from several off-seasons ago when he rented vacant commercial space and converted it to a pitching facility.

It seems strange, with the possible restart of baseball, Aaron Hicks is a stronger bet to start the season than Aaron Judge. I have absolutely no idea what is going on with Judge. Meanwhile, Hicks has proclaimed he is ready. I guess the doubt about Judge will keep Clint Frazier’s name relevant in training camp. Clint has been the guy I’d love to see the Yankees trade to create opportunity for him, but as long as he is a Yankee, I guess I will continue to hold out hope he has that magical, transformational Yankee moment. If I was a betting man, that’s not exactly a bet I’d make but I’d love to be proven wrong and if he is going to find Major League success, better with the Yankees than not. 

Until the Yankees sign their draft picks, I am not going to get excited about Austin Wells, Trevor Hauver or Beck May. I liked the picks but they are just guys who happen to play baseball and are not true Yankee prospects until they sign on the dotted line. With other teams locking up their draftees, the eery silence among the Yankees’ picks worries me that they might not sign at all.  I think Wells is a great story. Drafted in high school by the Yankees in 2018 (35th round, the same year they took catcher Anthony Siegler with their first pick), he chose to go to college over signing with the Yankees. Betting on himself paid dividends as he parlayed his worth into the Yankees’ first pick in the 2020 draft. The negative is that he picked the wrong year to do it. The other negative is his agent (Scott Boras). The odds of getting Wells signed this time around appear to be nearly as challenging as two years ago. We’ll see. I hope the one-time Red Sox fan realizes how much the Yankees want him and have the resources and coaching talent to help him become the best he can be, whether it is behind the plate or at another position. 

I was a little saddened to see former Yankees pitching prospect Manny Banuelos, 29, sign to play in the Chinese Professional Baseball League this week. Not that I thought he had any chance of making it back to the Major Leagues at this point, but the failure to fulfill the promise he once showed when he was part of the Killer B’s in the Yankees’ farm system with Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman. Every time Banuelos landed with a new MLB team, I had hoped he would find success but it has not happened for him. I know non-Yankee fans like to say Banuelos is just another overhyped former Yankees prospect but I did and still do believe that he had the talent  at the time necessary to succeed. Whether it was injuries, focus, control, consistency or whatever stopped him from reaching his ceiling, it doesn’t erase the fact he was once a talented, young prospect with value. Even though it didn’t work out, I think it is unfair to dismiss him as over-hyped. Jesus Montero, yeah, he was over-hyped…

I hope everyone is staying healthy and safe. To all fathers, I hope this has been a wonderful Father’s Day for you and your families.  

As always, Go Yankees!

The Sights and Sounds of “Spring”, Part 2…

2020 Spring Training II may soon be a reality…

For the first time in a long time, this feels like this will be a critical week for Major League Baseball. The MLB owners are expected to present a proposal to the Players Association for revenue and finance modifications, in addition to health and safety protocols, in preparation for a proposed shortened season. It still seems like we are in for the continuation of back and forth moves but realistically time is running out, literally, if there is to be a 2020 season. If the season is as foggy next weekend as it is now, optimism for a successful launch of the season will start to fade (if it hasn’t already). I am hopeful the groundwork is laid to give us baseball soon.

All I know is I want baseball. I’ve seen people writing the negatives about a potential 82 game season (increased likelihood of a player hitting .400?) but there’s no doubt this season will carry the proverbial asterisk for whatever happens. I have reconciled with myself that we will not see a traditional version of professional baseball until 2021 at the earliest. Even next year, with a full  slate of 162 games, might still feel a little off with the residual effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Still, I’d rather have baseball this year than no baseball. We’re in the prime of Gerrit Cole’s career and I don’t want to miss another minute (or pitch). Who knows what challenges an 82 game season will present, but I am willing to endure the pain to experience the joy. The deeper we go without the return of America’s favorite pastime, more potential games are eliminated. To go less than 82 games does start to seem like ‘why bother?’ as it would reward teams with hot starts regardless of the quality of their clubs to succeed over better and more deserving clubs. So, as much as I want baseball back, there is probably a line in the sand and we’re getting close to it. That’s why I am hopeful for optimistic news this week. But that darn realist in me keeps trying to pour water on my party. At least we’re talking baseball again. It has to start somewhere.

As the injured Yankees return to good health, it made me wonder if there has been a player to have off-season Tommy John surgery and yet be ready and available for Opening Day. I didn’t look it up to see if it has ever happened before but it could be the case for Aaron Hicks as he was expected back in June or July. I know, it’s not the same as a pitcher, but still, it will be incredible if Hicks is your starting centerfielder when the games resume. A welcome sight, no doubt, but credit to him for the hard work he’s put in since undergoing surgery to put himself in position to be ready.

Photo Credit: @ahicks31 via Instagram


James Paxton and Giancarlo Stanton seem to be other players who will be ready, much to the disappointment of hopefuls for their spots (led by Jonathan Loaisiga, Deivi Garcia, and Clint Frazier, among others). I feel bad for Frazier. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. If Frazier is earmarked for another season in Triple A, the Yankees should trade him to create MLB opportunity for the promising player. I do not see any purpose gained by another year in the minors regardless of how much Frazier needs to work on his defense. The only way, at this point, for Frazier to get better for the Major Leagues is to play in the Major Leagues. I’d like to see him succeed with the Yankees. Brett Gardner played very well last year, but with each passing year, he’ll lose a little bit more. It happens to the best of us. You cannot slow down Father Time, especially when you are in your late 30’s. Even in a shortened season, I see the Yankees leaning more heavily on guys like Mike Tauchman as the need to keep Gardy healthy will be stronger than it ever has been. It could create opportunity for Frazier, but then again, maybe not. This will be interesting to watch in the coming months. It would be fun to watch Frazier grab opportunity with both hands and ride it to a very productive MLB season. 

Photo Credit: @clintfrazierr via Instagram


I am sure the opportunity will be there for the younger pitchers. It’s not like Cole and company will be pitching nine innings (or at least seven) an outing right out of the gate, especially with an abbreviated re-start to Spring Training. Those middle innings need to be filled and expanded rosters will help the younger arms gain exposure. I guess Spring Training this year should be called Summer Training…if it happens. Florida may be nice in March but it’s not exactly where I would want to train in June or July. Yet, veterans and rookies alike will be pitching for success and it will create memorable moments for all of us in whatever form the season takes.

This will be a big year for Paxton. An impending free agent, his performance, even with a proposed shortened season, sets the stage for his next contract. Teams will be watching to see if he can stay healthy which, up to this point, has been a challenge. I like Paxton and I hope this is not his final year in Pinstripes. Yet, with Masahiro Tanaka heading into free agency, it seems like the Yankees will lose at least one. I’d probably like to see Tanaka finish his career in the Bronx, even with the annual threat of Tommy John surgery looming over his elbow.  I get frustrated with those obligatory regular season home runs, but Masa turns up the volume in the post-season and you need guys like that to be the last team standing. The Andy Pettitte Effect. So, I guess the question is who would you rather have? Paxton or Tanaka. That’s a tough one. I think Paxton could be a very effective pitcher in his 30’s if he could overcome the injury label, but Masa has been a very good Yankee from Day One and knows how to pitch effectively despite any limitations or obstacles. I know I didn’t really answer the question about which pitcher I would prefer to keep but I’d like to see both Yankee careers continue. I just don’t think it is possible, especially in a year that has seen such a cut in team finances. 

I think one of the biggest downsides to the MLB delay this season is the dilution of focus on the Houston cheating scandal. Maybe it will re-surface when the games resume but if the games are played in empty stadiums, the only boos will come from opposing dugouts. Not quite the same as having packed stadium crowds laying it on thick. Jim Crane and his roster of cheaters, in my opinion, will be getting off easy. I really hope I am wrong about this. The Astros disrespected the game we love and it’s unfortunate they will not see the full wrath of penalties and punishment they deserve. 

Ready for baseball. MLB, Players Association…the ball is in your hands. Let’s do this.

Photo Credit: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports


As always, Go Yankees!

The Absence of Yankees Baseball…

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Baseball Stadiums remain shuttered…

I type this as all of us, or most of us, are locked in the four walls of our homes. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly had a very great impact on everyone and I am hopeful that we’ll get to the point where the worst is behind us. Sadly, it does not appear we’re there yet. I look forward to days of easily buying toilet paper again.

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I don’t know about you but this is about as disconnected from Yankees baseball as I’ve ever felt. This includes times of player lockouts and strikes when we knew a return could happen quickly unlike the current situation.

Although MLB Network is gladly showing replays of Mark “The Bird” Fidrych beating the Yankees with his famed mound antics in 1976 or listening to David Cone and Lou Piniella talk about the Mariners 1995 playoff win against everybody’s favorite team, it’s just not the same. I think watching one of those old classic games reminded me that I had forgotten Rawley Eastwick once pitched for the Yankees (he was the winning pitcher in the Phillies’ thrilling 23-22 victory over the Cubs in 1979 but had briefly played in the Bronx a couple seasons earlier). This is all too much information for me to know. I’d rather be talking about Aaron Judge or Gerrit Cole or Gleyber Torres.

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Speaking of Judge, I was surprised to hear that he has also dealt with a collapsed lung (what?) that has since healed. As if the stress fracture in his right first rib was not enough. As for the stress fracture, it sounds like there has been some improvement but not enough to give him medical clearance so it continues to be wait and see. Hopefully this forced exile from baseball will allow him to return to health when the players can actually resume organized activities on the field. I am a little worried that injuries and Judge will go hand in hand for the years ahead and really hope that’s not the case.

It is weird to think that Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton, and James Paxton could all be available for “Opening Day” depending upon when that is. I saw Trevor Bauer’s comment that it would take him three to four weeks to get ready for regular season baseball which sounds about right to me. Those who say two weeks after a long layoff are kidding themselves and it would expose the players to unnecessary risk for injury by trying to get ready too quickly.

I think we are realistically looking at the All-Star Break or just before for the players to start the regular season as it seems we are still a long way from the resumption of baseball activities. I don’t see how MLB could possibly play 162 games at this point, and it seems more probable to go with a schedule of only about 108 games, give or take, based on the actual return date. I wouldn’t want to see baseball being played in December. It’s unfortunate in what should have been a probable World Series year for the Yankees that they’ll encounter a shorter season that could benefit other teams’ chances.

I may not be a Red Sox fan but I was sad to hear that Chris Sale needs Tommy John surgery. It is not something I’d wish upon anyone, but for Sale’s sake, he is able to make a full and healthy recovery to restore his status as one of the game’s best. I know the last few years have been frustrating for Red Sox fans as Sale has dealt with injuries, but hopefully this is the cure to his ailments and he’ll return as strong as ever. That’s certainly my hope for Luis Severino (if not more so because he is a Yankee). For Sale, it’s probable he won’t be back and ready until the 2022 season. I suppose late 2021 is possible but in my opinion unlikely given it is late March already.

In the midst of this coronavirus pandemic, I am dealing with a move that will take me from Colorado to California. I was too deep into the move to turn back when the pandemic set in. Not looking forward to moving in the current climate but there’s not really much I can do about it. My new home is near Angel Stadium in Anaheim.I had tickets to see all three games between the Yankees and Angels over Memorial Day Weekend which I fully expect to be cancelled or postponed.  Sitting in Denver, we got socked with a major winter storm on Thursday (Winter’s way of letting me know I am not out of the woods yet). Hopefully the warmer expected weather over the next week removes signs of the latest snowfall. If all goes well, it will be the last of snow for me for a very long time. If I want to see snow, I’ll go to it. It doesn’t need to come visit me.

I would have preferred to live closer to Dodger Stadium but I had no desire to deal with a two-hour one-way commute to/from work. I’ll just consider myself ‘Los Angeles Scott of Anaheim’. It seems to work for the Angels. No doubt I’ll be taking the train (and a bus trip via the Dodger Express) to see games in Chavez Ravine. But, also, I have plans to attend a few non-Yankee games at Angel Stadium over the course of the summer when/if baseball returns. It will be fun to finally watch Mike Trout play in person. No doubt I’ll be pulling for the Angels when they play a team like the Texas Rangers or any of the Yankees’ AL East Rivals or that trash team in South Texas.

Over OC

I didn’t have much to write about today but wanted to get a few words out to everyone to express my hope you are staying healthy in this very trying time or if you are not doing well, I wish you a speedy and full recovery. The Yankees Family is exactly that, a true family. We care about each and every one of you, and without you, there is no us. Be well.

As always, Go Yankees!

Better Pitching Equals Better Results…

Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer, AP

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

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

Photo Credit: AP

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Staton Rabin, AP

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Mike Stobe, Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer, AP

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Rich Gagnon, AP

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

As always, Go Yankees!

The Joy of Winning…

Photo Credit: Kathy Willens, AP

Yankees On 7-Game Roll…

The “fun” is back in the New York Yankees. After a highly successful May, June just didn’t start like it would be enjoyable but now the team is on a seven-game winning streak after last night’s 4-1 victory over the Houston Astros and the ‘fun’ is certainly back in style around Yankee Stadium.

When the Friday night lineup was posted featuring Aaron Judge atop the order, there were so many dissenting fans. Since it was a scheduled game off for early season MVP D.J. LeMahieu, I had no problem with Aaron Boone’s decision to put Judge in the leadoff spot. ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained’ as the saying goes. Boone could literally put all the names in a bag and shake them up to determine the lineup order and he wouldn’t be wrong. From top to bottom, even on days when Luke Voit and D.J. LeMahieu take a blow, the Yankees are scary good.

Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton may have been a combined 0-for-8 last night with five strikeouts, but the one thing that stood out to me is how incredibly talented Gleyber Torres is. It’s not like it was a revelation yesterday but I continue to be amazed by the play of the 22-year-old.  He homered for the third consecutive game (a feat matched by Gary Sanchez, making them the first Yankee teammates to hit home runs together for at least three straight games) but the cherry on top was the incredible glove flip in the top of the 8th inning which started an inning-ending double play when it looked like the Astros were in position to add a few runs against Zack Britton. I’ve seen a few Yankee fans post on Social Media that the Yankees should include Torres in a trade to acquire an ace like Max Scherzer.  No, thank you. Torres, I hope, will be a Yankee for the rest of his career. To me, he is in the same untouchable category as Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Luis Severino. I don’t realistically think GM Brian Cashman would ever trade him, but it’s foolish there are fans who believe he should.

Photo Credit: Paul J Bereswill, The New York Post

I think if there is an infielder I am worried about, it is Didi Gregorius. A free agent at the end of the year, I could see the Yankees letting him walk and inserting Torres as the team’s starting shortstop. D.J. LeMahieu provides a superior bat and glove at second base and the role of super-sub could certainly be filled by Thairo Estrada. I don’t want to see Gregorius leave and I’d like to see the team lock him up on an extension but until it happens, there is a chance Sir Didi could be moving on after the season. Didi’s throws don’t seem to have the same zip as they once did. It could just be a time process as he further distances himself from last fall’s Tommy John surgery but I don’t like any potential excuses that might allow Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner to save a few pennies.

Our happiness that Cameron Maybin’s roster spot was safe with the activation of Aaron Judge and the demotion of a pitcher (Nestor Cortes Jr) instead of Maybin sure was short-lived. After suffering a calf strain last night while running around third base on Gary Sanchez’s homer, Maybin has been placed on the Injured List. After the game, Aaron Boone said that his stay on the IL could be awhile. Bummer. He’s been playing so well for the Yankees and I like how he mixed into the team’s chemistry. Although the Yankees have not announced who will be taking Maybin’s spot as I type this post, it is expected to be outfielder Mike Tauchman (not Clint Frazier) for defensive purposes. Nothing against Tauchman, but it’s a huge drop-off from Maybin to him if for no other reason than clubhouse presence.

Photo Credit: Al Bello, Getty Images

I am a little worried about Aaron Hicks’ shoulder. He was forced to play center field last night after Maybin left the game. After having a couple of games off for inflammation in his right shoulder, Aaron Boone hadn’t planned to insert Hicks back into the lineup until today. Hopefully the cortisone shot helps and the inflammation is not indicative of greater problems. It’s been such a challenge to keep Hicks on the field this year (even if he’s played more than Stanton or Judge).

Six Yankees have moved into the final voting phase for the MLB All-Star Game which will be held on Wednesday and Thursday.

First Base: Luke Voit

Second Base: D.J. LeMahieu

Shortstop: Gleyber Torres

Third Base: Gio Urshela

Catcher: Gary Sanchez

Outfield: Aaron Judge

While I think Gary is a shoo-in, I really hope that Voit, LeMahieu and Torres are named American League starters. I like the job Urshela has done but I honestly cannot say he is the best third baseman in the league. Judge, to me, has missed too much time this year. All-Star recognition should be based on this year’s performance and not merely be a popularity contest. So, as much as I love Aaron Judge, he is not one of the three best outfielders in the league this year (so far anyway).

I think I am officially tired of the Max Scherzer trade rumors. The Washington Nationals and the Lerner family are not going to trade their ace. It simply is not happening. The Nationals have won five games in a row and are currently 2 1/2 games out in the NL Wild Card chase. Even if the Nats were to fall out of contention, I feel Scherzer will remain a Nat. He will not be a Yankee. In my opinion, the more likely trade targets are Matthew Boyd of the Detroit Tigers or Mike Minor of the Texas Rangers. The Rangers are only 1 1/2 games out in the AL Wild Card chase so Boyd, to me, stands as the most probable target. I can’t say that he is the pitcher I want most, but he’s the one I feel could be trying on the Pinstripes within the next month.

In 16 starts, Boyd, a lefty, is 5-5 for the lowly Tigers. His K/9 is 11.22 (striking out 118 batters in 94 2/3 innings), with 3.61 ERA and 3.36 FIP.  He is currently carrying the best WAR of his career at 2.6. Boyd, 28, was acquired by the Tigers in the 2015 trading deadline deal that sent David Price to the Toronto Blue Jays. I know that we went a few years with speculation the Yankees would acquire another Tigers starter (Michael Fulmer, currently recovering from Tommy John surgery) and that has turned out to be the best trade never made, but I think the odds are greater the Yankees can consummate a Boyd deal.

I like Toronto’s Marcus Stroman but I don’t want the Yankees to keep sending talented prospects to the Blue Jays to supplement the great young talent they have already accumulated. I guess it’s inevitable somebody will, but I’d rather not see multiple former Yankees helping the Blue Jays become a beast in the AL East.

It was reported yesterday that former Yankees manager Buck Showalter is in talks with the YES Network for a “fill-in” analyst role that could lead to a permanent gig next season. I went through my years where I despised Showalter but I’ve grown to have an appreciation of him over the last few years. I think I realized that Showalter’s intense desire to beat the Yankees was driven by his “love” for the organization. He knows and understands Yankees history as well as anyone, and I think he’d be a good voice in the booth for Yankees telecasts. Willie Randolph is also expected to be a guest analyst before the end of the season. Of the fill-in’s we’ve seen so far, I think David Wells has been my favorite. With the loss of Al Leiter who left YES earlier this season and Ken Singleton’s winding down of his broadcast career, the YES Network lineup could certainly use new blood. I like the names we’re hearing and I hope that one or more join the broadcast team.

I think it would be awesome if the Yankees can win at least one of the next two games against the Astros. A sweep would be incredible but I will set expectations at a more realistic level. The Astros, despite their current six-game losing streak, remain one of the AL’s best teams. They’ve fought back in both of the past two games and put themselves in position to tie or win those games. The Astros are simply too good to keep losing. Nevertheless, I hope their losing streak is extended for at least one more game today. It is a great day to see Edwin Encarnación walk the parrot and/or for Aaron Judge to give the Judge’s Chambers reason to exuberantly wave their gavels. If the Yankees get a homer today, they will match the team record of homers in 25 consecutive games set by the 1941 New York Yankees who were led by a trio of thirty-homer plus outfielders, Charlie Keller (33), Tommy Henrich (31) and Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio (30). It could be a history making kind of day…another great story for baseball’s most storied franchise.

As always, Go Yankees!

Yankees Continue to Beat “Bad” Teams…

Aaron Hicks / Photo Credit: UPI

Red Sox Hardly Resemble Last October’s Champions…

Maybe Jared Carrabis is right and the Yankees can only beat bad teams. Case in point, the Yankees’ 4-1 win over the punchless Boston Red Sox. Seriously, I continue to be amazed by a team missing its top stars like Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Dellin Betances, Luis Severino, Didi Gregorius and Miguel Andujar. If you removed a half-dozen of their very best players, I am not sure the Minnesota Twins or the Houston Astros, the league leaders with 38 wins, would be where they are today. The Yankees sit one game back in wins at 37, and the second best overall record (winning percentage) behind the Twins.

Gary Sanchez and Aroldis Chapman / Photo Credit: Julio Cortez, AP

I can’t say enough great things about DJ LeMahieu. As much as I wanted Manny Machado last winter, I never complained about the Yankees’ signing of LeMahieu. Living in Denver, I was able to see, day in and day out, how great LeMahieu is. He’s not a vocal guy and simply lets his play do his talking for him. Game after game in Denver, you’d hear DJ’s teammates with the Rockies talk about how much he meant to the them. When Colorado’s best players, such as Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon, talked about how special LeMahieu was, you knew what you saw with your own eyes was the truth. The guy can play baseball. I am not saying LeMahieu is as good as or better than Machado, but LeMahieu is exactly what this team needs.  I had really felt bad for LeMahieu in the off-season when so many Yankee fans were trashing him and most felt he was a product of Coors Field. Sorry, altitude does not improve the ability to hit. It may help balls carry but that’s never been DJ’s game. I am sure that sliders don’t slide or cutters don’t cut like they would at sea level but it still comes down to hand/eye coordination. In 51 games and 221 plate appearances for everybody’s favorite team, I believe LeMahieu has proven he can hit outside of the Mile High City. He is batting .317/.368/.462 with .355 wOBA and 121 wRC+. He has hit 6 home runs (a figure he has only exceeded twice in his career with 11 in 2016, the year he won the NL batting title, and 15 last year). Last night against the Red Sox, LeMahieu was 2-for-4 with a run-scoring double in the bottom of the third and a home run, a solo shot in the fifth, both off Red Sox starter Chris Sale, for two RBIs. He was dazzling with the leather too.

DJ LeMahieu / Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac, Getty Images

Daniel Burch of The Greedy Pinstripes was among the very first, if not the first, to suggest last Winter that LeMahieu to the Yanks made sense. I was unable to find the post or I would link it here. I am sure that Yankees special consultant Jim Hendry, the man responsible for originally drafting LeMahieu when he was the Chicago Cubs GM, already had his eyes on his former pupil. But Daniel had great vision for a fan, with no professional affiliation to the team, to see how nicely LeMahieu would fit into the Yankees’ lineup.

LeMahieu certainly has my vote for Yankees MVP at this point in the season. I am not trying to minimize the contributions Domingo German and Giovanny Urshela have made, or the resurrection of The Kraken in the Bronx. LeMahieu has helped solve last year’s problem with runners in scoring position. He has helped those guys who would have been stranded last year step on home plate on their way back to the dugout this season.

After the game last night, Manager Aaron Boone said “He’s out there to rip your heart out” after prefacing it by saying not to be fooled by DJ’s quiet demeanor. When asked about Boone’s comment, DJ just smiled and said “I don’t know about that”. I mentioned it to a friend, a die-hard Rockies fan, and she said “That’s DJ…quiet and mighty. He is pretty humble guy”. Humble or not, I’d hate to think where this team would be without LeMahieu.

With Didi Gregorius set to rejoin the Yankees soon, DJ’s role will change since Gleyber Torres will slide from shortstop to second base, but there’s no way the Yankees can remove DJ’s name from the lineup card. I think he’ll see most of his time at third base, but his versatility allows the Yankees to put him at first and drop Louis Linwood Voit III in at DH. Based on this, Kendrys Morales would be the guy I’d cut to make room for Didi. Use the DH as a revolving door for starters to keep a spot open for LeMahieu. I am sure Didi will see a fair share amount of time at DH as he works his way back although it’s incredible to think how great the Yankees will be defensively on the left side with Didi at short and either Gio Urshela or LeMahieu at third. Not trying to take anything away from the brilliant job Torres has done at short, but Didi is my shortstop…until he’s not. I really hope the Yankees move to sign him to an extension now that he’s healthy. The potential for a lack of motivation by the Yankees exists given how well Torres and LeMahieu performed as the keystone combo. I am not complaining about how well they played but I really do not want to lose Didi after this season.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre “Red Barons” Shortstop 5-31-19 / Photo Credit: Jason Farmer, The Citizen’s Voice

With the calendar page turning to June, the talk about Dallas Keuchel should intensify. Well, it’s been intensifying for weeks but now that the MLB Draft is upon us in a couple of days and the drop of the qualifying offer/draft pick compensation attached to Keuchel, Keuchel’s market should finally form since the only cost will be money. If you believe Keuchel’s agent, Scott Boras, Keuchel is nearly in plug-and-play condition and would not require much time to get ready. Boras would never lead us astray, would he? Honestly, I’ve never been too excited about Keuchel and feel he is regressed from that pitcher that used to absolutely dominate the Yankees.  But, there’s no denying he is still a good pitcher and could help. If the Yankees don’t sign him, I could easily see the Tampa Bay Rays or Boston Red Sox make the move. I’d rather have Keuchel pitch for us than against us.  If you told me that I could have either Madison Bumgarner, for prospects, or Keuchel, for money, I’d take the latter. The Yankees need rotation help as there are still too many questions with the current rotation. I’d take Max Scherzer, with the high cost in prospects, above all, but that’s a topic for next month’s trade deadline.

Everyone has been talking about how the Yankees blew it by not signing Patrick Corbin last winter. I recognize that he started off very well in Washington, but last night’s line was very ugly.  65 pitches in 2 2/3rd innings which led to 11 hits for the Cincinnati Reds and 8 runs (6 earned). Corbin still has a decent overall ERA at 3.46 but it’s not as nice as it was entering the game. I know, there’s no pitcher immune from a bad game but it’s reinforcement about how fickle pitching can be. We saw it yesterday in pushing perennial Cy Young candidate Chris Sale’s record to 1-7 despite Sale’s 10 strikeouts. @Eric_M888 had the best tweet after the game: “Can’t spell saLLLLLLLe without 7 L’s”.

Sandy Leon and Chris SaLLLLLLLe / Photo Credit: Julio Cortez, AP

This is not a game recap but I’d be remiss for not calling out the great throw by Gary Sanchez with two outs and two on to nail former Yank Eduardo Nunez off second base for the final out in the top of the fifth. The Red Sox could have done some damage with the bat in the hands of Andrew Benintendi, who likes Yankee Stadium dingers, but it was not to be. It was simply a fantastic play by Sanchez, showing off his brilliant arm, but give equal credit to Gleyber Torres for the across the bag swipe of Nunez a split second before his hand reached the bag. The reaction by Torres was priceless and I am sure it will be a highlight replayed again and again as the season progresses. I felt that was the true turning point of the game.

Gary Sanchez / Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Thanks to the win and a Rays loss (5-3 to the Minnesota Twins), the Yankees (37-19) moved up to a game and a half lead over the Rays in the AL East. The Red Sox are 8 1/2 games back. The Yankees’ record in May (20-7) was the best since their magical 1998 season. A successful June can start today with a win.  Domingo German (9-1, 3.43 ERA) goes for his tenth win after failing last week against the Kansas City Royals. He’ll be opposed by Rick Porcello (4-4, 4.41 ERA). I’d really like to see German nail down that tenth win but as long as the Yankees emerge victorious, I will be happy.

As always, Go Yankees!

Crushing AL East Rivals…

(Photo: Mike Janes/AP)

Even if it means absolutely nothing…

Maybe the Yankees should use David Wells in the YES Network broadcast booth more often. He worked Friday’s game against the Boston Red Sox and yesterday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays and saw the Yankees score a combined total of 31 runs in the victories over two of their biggest AL East Rivals.  

It was enjoyable to see the Yankees win the 14-1 laugher over the Red Sox but sadly it is just a Spring Training game so it’s meaningless. I’d love to see one of those kind of games (or better yet, two) when the Yankees play the Red Sox on April 16th and 17th. The best way to get rid the memory of the devastating 16-1 loss to Boston in last Fall’s ALDS is to simply return the favor and ensure Boston’s season is shortened this year.   

Saturday’s 17-7 win, two touchdowns and a field goal, over the Blue Jays came at a price. The Yankees lost top prospect Estevan Florial when he tried to make a leaping catch against the wall in the eighth inning. He couldn’t reach the ball and came down on his right wrist against the turf, suffering what subsequent x-rays revealed to be a non-displaced wrist fracture. It’s a big loss as he’ll presumably lose valuable development time. Florial was having a great Spring with a batting line of .355/.429/.516 and .945 OPS in 13 games. In 31 at-bats, he had 11 hits and 7 runs scored to go with a homer and 4 RBI’s. He has also stolen 5 bags, which included one yesterday. There was no way he was making the big league club having just reached High-A last year, but with pitch recognition looming as the last major hurdle for him, his development will be further delayed. Florial missed three months last year after surgery on his hamate bone of the same wrist. If Florial misses 2-3 months with the latest injury, it will adversely affect his status as a potential July trading chip (not that I want the Yankees to trade him, of course). Further tests are scheduled for Monday before the Yankees will know the expected timetable for his recovery and rehab. I am hoping for better than expected results but admittedly it’s not looking good for the talented 21-year-old.  

MLB Network’s 30 in 30 focus on the Yankees is coming up this week…finally. It will air on Tuesday night at 7 pm Eastern during the hour-long MLB Tonight show. I am looking forward to the interviews with some of baseball’s greatest young stars and maybe Brett Gardner and/or CC Sabathia too.   

Listening to the many interviews with other teams around the league, there is a common phrase that Aaron Judge uses which is echoed by so many other players. “Picking (someone’s) brain.” As a fan of The Walking Dead, it’s hard not to get a visual of a Zombie, I mean a Walker, in search of food. I know, this is a game of knowledge and understanding and veteran players have so much to offer younger players. It’s just funny that the same expression gets used by so many players.  

Jacoby Ellsbury is expected in Tampa today. I am sure it will be a day of medical evaluations for him and who really knows where he is at physically except for him.  No way he makes the Opening Day roster but if healthy, for as much as I am down on him, he figures to be in position to help at some point as he works back into playing shape and redevelops his timing after being away from the game for so long. I do not expect anything from him and I had been doubtful he’d ever wear the Pinstripes again, but if he has anything left in the tank, the Yankees should give him a shot. If anything, the dude knows how to get catcher’s interference. I am sure Ellsbury, now 35, has tired of the negative comments from people like me and wants to show he is still capable of playing baseball at a high level, not too much unlike Troy Tulowitzki’s comeback attempt. If he can, play him. If not, cut bait and move on. Of course, it would be a much costlier decision with Ellsbury than Tulo, but I am sure the Yankees won’t use money as a reason not to part ways with Ellsbury if the insurance payments are no longer flowing in and Ellsbury proves to be an outfielder that can no longer play the outfield.

(Photo: Chris Pedota/North Jersey.com)

A couple weeks ago, I gave my projection for the Opening Day Lineup. At this point, you have to scratch Jonathan Loaisiga. He is not going to make the OD roster. For as much as we say Spring Training stats don’t count, Lasagna has stunk big time.  In four games, he is 1-1 with a 10.00 ERA.  He has given up 11 runs (10 earned) in 9 innings pitched. He has walked 6 batters and is carrying a 1.67 WHIP. Granted, you could say that J.A. Happ’s Spring has been nearly as bad, but Happ, as a veteran, “is just working on things”. Loaisiga had something to prove, whereas Happ does not. The performance has most likely earned Loaisiga a trip to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, making Luis Cessa (the pitching surprise of the Spring) and Domingo German the probable replacement starters for Luis Severino and CC Sabathia. Unless the Yankees carry an extra position player, it should mean that Stephen Tarpley will take the last bullpen spot. With Aaron Hicks’ health and the potential he misses Opening Day, it could force the Yankees to bring along an extra outfielder since Brett Gardner will need to slide to center to cover for Hicks although Tyler Wade is fully capable of covering a corner outfield spot on a short-term basis.

There was an update this morning when Hicks told the media that he WILL be missing the opening series against the Baltimore Orioles. He had his second cortisone shot for back stiffness this past week. The Yankees will have to decide whether to carry Hicks on the Opening Day roster if they feel he’ll only miss the two games against Baltimore or place him on the 10-day Injured List if they fear he’ll be out longer. It’s frustrating the Yankees could spend the majority of April “short-handed” as they’ll also be down a man when CC Sabathia serves his five-game suspension. 2020’s 26-man roster is starting to look a year too late.  

If the Yankees aren’t that high on Clint Frazier to start the year, I thought Carlos Gonzalez would have been a sneaky good pickup for some outfield help. However, that option was lost yesterday when the Cleveland Indians signed the long-time Colorado Rockie outfielder to a minor league deal. I guess we’ve reached our quota of ex-Rockies. I know CarGo carries the ‘he can’t hit outside of Coors Field’ tag but for $2-$3 million (pocket change for Hal Steinbrenner), he could have helped.

Congrats to Michael King and Brandon Wagner. They were named yesterday the winners of the 2018 Kevin Lawn Award as the Yankees’ Minor League “Pitcher of the Year” and “Player of the Year”, respectively. King has gotten much recognition after his breakout 2018 season, but Wagner is a bit unheralded. The 23-year-old, in combined A/AA, hit .267/.380/.461, with .841 OPS, last season. He belted 21 homers and 67 RBIs. He is primarily a first baseman but saw multiple games at third base and has even seen time at second and in the outfield.  Diversity is a great ticket to The Show if you have the talent. It should allow Wagner to leap-frog the ‘first base only’ types, Mike Ford and Ryan McBroom, in the farm system in the not-so-distant future if he continues his progression.   

Lastly, Happy St Patrick’s Day to all!  

As always, Go Yankees!  

The Dog Days of Spring…

Less Than 3 Weeks to Opening Day…

I always love the arrival of pitchers and catchers in early February, followed shortly thereafter by the position players. The first images of Spring Training are always a welcome sight after a long, cold winter. The first glimpses of the players on the practice fields near Steinbrenner Field, the popping of catcher’s mitts and the sounds of bats as balls leave the yard. But gradually, the excitement fades and the arrival of Opening Day can’t get here fast enough. We’re here now. I am starting to lose interest in watching guys like Trey Amburgey and Isiah Gilliam playing games and want to see the MLB regulars consistently through game’s end.

Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

For the Yankees, hopefully there will be no further injuries this Spring. We know at least three players are headed for the Injured List to start the season. Luis Severino, Jacoby Ellsbury, and CC Sabathia. Sevy is currently in the midst of his two-week shutdown. It was reported yesterday that he isn’t feeling any pain after a cortisone shot. But like a doctor once told me after a cortisone shot, it masks the pain but doesn’t cure the problem. Based on Sevy’s positive words, I am cautiously optimistic that rest is the cure and there will be no further setbacks for him. Ellsbury, after such a late start to camp (expected to arrive next week), will need to stay for extended spring training, assuming he’s 100% healthy even when he arrives (unlikely if you ask me). Sabathia, as we know, had a delayed start this Spring after last December’s angioplasty and has been going a little slower than the rest of the starting rotation.

Two inactive players in camp are already destined for the Injured List as they continue their respective recoveries from Tommy John surgery: Didi Gregorius and Jordan Montgomery. I had been bracing myself for the possibility Gregorius could be out until August but he is seemingly ahead of schedule and we could see him as early as June. Regardless of how well Tulo may be playing at the time, Didi will be such a welcome sight when he is cleared to play. Montgomery is doubtful to provide any meaningful contribution this season. When he is cleared to throw and begins his rehab, he’ll head to the Minor Leagues. I see him as nothing more than a spot starter very late in the season, if at all. Many fans are acting like he’ll be a great trade deadline “acquisition” but honestly I don’t see him pitching any big games for the Yankees this year. Even healthy, he is not one of the best starters and I think it will be next season before he’s truly back and ready to help.

So, in my opinion, Opening Day seems to be pointing to the following roster:

Projected 2019 New York Yankees Opening Day Roster
Catcher Gary Sanchez
First Base Luke Voit
Second Base Gleyber Torres
Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki
Third Base Miguel Andújar
Right Field Aaron Judge
Center Field Aaron Hicks
Left Field Brett Gardner
Designated Hitter Giancarlo Stanton
Super Utility D.J. LeMahieu
Bench Tyler Wade
Bench Austin Romine
SP-1 Masahiro Tanaka
SP-2 James Paxton
SP-3 J.A. Happ
SP-4 Jonathan Loaisiga
SP-5 Domingo German
Closer Aroldis Chapman
Setup Dellin Betances
Rest of the Bullpen Zack Britton
Adam Ottavino
Chad Green
Jonathan Holder
Tommy Kahnle
Luis Cessa

This is not necessarily the OD roster I want but rather what the tea leaves seem to be saying according to my eyes. I know many fans can’t let go of the homer Greg Bird hit off Andrew Miller in the playoffs a couple of years ago but Voit deserves the first base job based on last season’s performance (until proven otherwise). As the loser of the first base job, I expect Bird to begin the season at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. I’ve seen people say one of Voit or Bird should be traded but I do think it would be unwise. As much as I like Voit, he needs to prove last Fall was not a fluke. If not, Bird needs to be ready for the call-up while playing every day for the RailRiders. LeMahieu is expected to be the backup first baseman.

This lineup forces the Yankees to use Stanton in left field more often than they would like. I know I don’t see Brett Gardner as an every day starter anymore but no doubt Manager Aaron Boone will run him out there as often as possible. I still expect Clint Frazier to eventually come up from Triple A to mount a serious threat for playing time but realistically it won’t happen until later this summer if Frazier mashes for the RailRiders unless injuries mandate an earlier call. There’s no circumstance I see Gardy as the starter when the calendar page turns to September.

I am a bit concerned about the nagging little ailments that always seem to bother Hicks. He has been held out of games over the past week due to tightness in his back and is still feeling some discomfort. He is not expected to return to play until next Tuesday at the earliest according to Aaron Boone’s words yesterday. I am hopeful the back does not become a season-long malady. I am sure Hicks wouldn’t have missed as much time if it had been the regular season but there’s still concern (if not the Yankees, at least for me).

Tyler Wade’s speed and versatility (ability to play infield and outfield positions) makes him the most logical option for the bench. If he gets the job, I really hope this serves as his breakout year.

My preferred starting lineup would feature LeMahieu at second, with Torres sliding to shortstop, until Gregorius returns. But hey, what do I know. Brian Cashman and Aaron Boone get paid a lot of money to make those decisions and they’re certainly much smarter and more knowledgeable about the Yankees than I am.

Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tanaka at the top of the rotation is my speculation that he’ll be named as the Opening Day starter. Otherwise, I’d rate Paxton as the slightly better pitcher (sorry Masa). Sevy is expected to be checked late next week to see if he can resume throwing. Best case scenario, we won’t see him until late April or even possibly early May. The concern here is the potential for further setbacks which would delay Sevy much longer than originally expected. Everyone keeps expecting CC Sabathia to come back pitching like he did last season but that’s not a certainty by any stretch of the imagination. The guy had a stint placed in a heart valve. It’s a serious procedure and we honestly do not know how it will affect him until he actually pitches against live hitting in games that matter. I can’t say that I am too enamored with the heavy reliance upon Loaisiga and German (or Cessa) in the early going. I know GM Brian Cashman has said the Yankees intend to go with the internal options, but really, what else is he supposed to say. Even if he is very interested in signing a free agent arm or acquiring another pitcher via trade, he is not going to tip his hand and show any signs of desperation. It would force the Yankees into an overpay situation. So, while I expect the Yankees to go into the season with Loaisiga and German as starters, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Yankees make another move to bring in a veteran starter. There’s no scenario I see Dallas Keuchel as a Yankee. The money, the years, and the draft pick compensation attached simply do not make any sense. I guess age 31 is the new 41 in Major League Baseball. The next few weeks should be interesting as the 2019 Opening Day Roster takes shape. Inevitably, there is always a surprise or two. We’ll see.

As expected, the Yankees reacquired controlling interest in the YES Network.  Holding 20% ownership in the network, they purchased the remaining 80% from Disney with the help of other investors, including Amazon, Blackstone Group and Sinclair Broadcast Group, for $3.47 billion. The transaction presumably increases the Yankees’ stake in YES to 30% and controlling interest among the financial backers. I’ve seen many fans complain about the Yankees’ investment in the YES Network over signing former free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado but, in my opinion, one does not affect the other. I don’t think the YES Network acquisition impacted the decision not to pursue Harper and Machado, nor do I feel that signing one of those guys would have prevented the purchase. Long-term, for the Yankees, I feel reacquiring control of the YES Network is a wise decision. It does underscore the fact the Yankees are a very valuable franchise and regardless of how one feels about Harper and Machado, a very financially astute one.

The sale does not require FCC approval but it is expected to take 120 days to complete. It was reported the financial partners have their own strategic plans for the acquisition but the Yankees will control programming, and the choice of announcers. We may love baseball but it’s hard to ignore the Yankees are a major business and all decisions are made for the long-term vision and success of the organization.

Speaking of the YES Network, I’ve been very pleased with their decision to have guest announcers this Spring. I particularly enjoyed the recent insight of Reggie Jackson. As a fan who grew up with the famed Bronx Zoo, it was fun listening to Reggie’s stories of those days. I loved Thurman Munson and enjoyed hearing his name again. Willie Randolph did a great job too. David Wells is scheduled to sit in the booth next Friday and Saturday when the Yankees play two of his former teams, the Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays. Boomer remains one of my all-time favorites and I am looking forward to his appearance.

As always, Go Yankees!

Dismissing Arbitration, Everybody Wins…

Photo Credit: Lynne Sladky-Associated Press

Severino Signs 4-Year Extension w/One-Year Club Option…

It took until the final day of MLB arbitration hearings and the day Luis Severino was scheduled to debate his worth in front of a mediator but the Yankees did the right thing securing a four-year extension and club option for a fifth year with the very talented right-hander. The money reportedly is $40 million with the potential  for $12.25 million more if the club exercises the option.

    • 2019: $4 million plus $2 million signing bonus for $6 million total
    • 2020: $10 million
    • 2021: $10.25 million
    • 2022: $11 million
    • 2023: $15 million if option exercised by club or $2.75 million buyout

I feel it is a very good deal for the Yankees and it provides certainty and financial security for Severino and his family even if he could have gotten more by going to arbitration every off-season until his free agent year. While many defend the arbitration process, I view it as the unfortunate opportunity to sit in a room while your employer basically tells you, “You suck!”. Not literally, but the employer is trying to show why the player is not worth the amount of money he is requesting so negatives are embellished to help build their case for the lower club-offered salary.

Cleveland Indians Trevor Bauer won his arbitration case earlier in the week but he described it as a “character assassination”. It seems to me the negativity stemming from the arbitration hearing will have residual impact on the player. I’ve heard people say they (the players) get over it. Maybe some do but we’re all human and it probably affects everyone differently. It’s hard not to forget criticism (justified or not). Regardless of how Sevy may have dealt with it, I am glad that he didn’t get to that point. He’s young and he is the team’s ace. We need to do everything possible to build him up, not tear him down. The extension buys peace of mind for Sevy and that’s invaluable.

Photo Credit: Bryan Hoch via Instagram

The urgency now moves to the primary three pending free agents: Aaron Hicks, Dellin Betances, and Didi Gregorius. I don’t really want to lose any of these guys.  I’d prefer to see the Yankees lock them up on extensions before they ever hit the open market. That’s probably wishful thinking on my part but I am hopeful. With Hicks, I’d probably feel better if Estevan Florial was closer to The Show but he’s still a couple of seasons away so the Yankees cannot afford to lose their current starting centerfielder. The Yankees obviously have other elite arms in the bullpen but losing Betances would still hurt. Didi, to me, is part of the heart of this team with the talent to match. He’s my shortstop and I want it to stay that way. Sorry Tulo.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

CC Sabathia will be holding a press conference today to formally announce his retirement at the end of the season. I guess I hadn’t really thought about it until someone mentioned it recently but CC is a Hall of Famer. In my mind, with no offense and regardless of whether or not you agree, he is a better pitcher than recently selected HOF-er Mike Mussina. Entering the year, he is 246-153 in 538 starts covering 3,470 innings. His K/9 is 7.67 and BB/9 is 2.75.  His career ERA is 3.70 with 67.8 WAR per FanGraphs. He currently sits at 2,986 strikeouts so he’ll notch a very significant milestone early in the season. His number 52 should be retired with a plaque in Monument Park when his playing days are finished. I am hopeful the Yankees find a way to keep Sabathia part of the organization when he hangs up his jersey. He’s been a great Yankee. It would be incredible for him to begin AND end his Yankees career with World Series championships. For his sake (and ours too), I hope it happens.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Congratulations to Dellin Betances and his wife, Janisa, on the birth of their son, Dellin Jr, this week (Wednesday). “With their first pick of the 2037 MLB Draft, the New York Yankees select…” The boy is certainly getting tremendous genes to start his life’s journey. Dellin is scheduled to arrive in Camp on Monday for the team’s first full team workout.

Susan Slusser, a long-time and very respected beat writer for the Oakland A’s, caused a stir on Twitter yesterday when she reported that Chien-Ming Wang had a minor leg strain and would not be throwing today. After an avalanche of ‘what?’ from many people, Slusser acknowledged that she meant Wei-Chung Wang, a non-roster invitee in camp for the A’s. The 38-year-old former Yankee is not attempting a comeback, to the best of my knowledge, but it was funny to see his name in strong circulation yesterday. Wang was featured in a 2018 documentary called Late Life: The Chien-Ming Wang Story. I know I’ve never been a fan of pitchers hitting since Wang suffered the torn Lisfranc ligament in his right foot while running the bases against the Houston Astros during the 2008 season. I’ve always wondered what could have been if Wang had not suffered that freak injury.

I love the story of Yankees hopeful Danny Farquhar. While I do not currently see a spot in the Yankees bullpen for Farquhar, it’s easy to root for a guy who had a life-threatening brain hemorrhage last summer yet has battled his way back to Major League Camp with Baseball’s greatest team. He is very appreciative of the opportunity with the Yankees and it shows. Barring injuries, it seems most likely that he’ll go to Triple A for depth or open eyes for another MLB team. Regardless of what happens, I wish him the best for much success in his journey back to the Major Leagues.

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg-The New York Post

The first exhibition game is a week from today. While the sights and sounds of the practice fields around Steinbrenner Field have been great, I am ready to see the guys playing some actual baseball. Of course, the starters will be guys like Matt Lipka but it will be fun to see the Yankees on the field against the hated Boston Red Sox at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, FL. Hopefully this is the year the Yankees end the Red Sox season prematurely.

Steinbrenner Field will be buzzing tomorrow with the formal arrival of position players in camp. Up to this point, the players in Tampa have had to work out at the minor league facilities so it will be good to see everybody together again. Nothing like an Aaron Judge smile to brighten the World. On a side note, it was so awesome yesterday to see Gleyber Torres greeting pitchers and catchers after the completion of their workouts. I am so excited to see what the new season has in store for Gleyber. Whether he is at second base or shortstop, he’s such a vital cog to the success of this team. He truly embodies the spirit of “there is no ‘I’ in team” and is becoming one of its leaders despite his youth.

As always, Go Yankees!