Tagged: Aaron Judge

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!

Ready, Set, Wait…

Photo Credit: AP


Continued waiting game for possible MLB Season…

I had been hopeful MLB would resolve the plan to return for the 2020 season by now but so far, it’s been a stand-off. Meanwhile, the NBA and NHL in what seemed to be peaceful and easy negotiations from afar, are preparing for their modified seasons.

I thought the proposal by the players association for a 114-game season was a bit aggressive with October seemingly right around the corner, but the owners’ idea of a 48 to 54 game season makes even less sense. Personally, as much as I would like 100 games, a season of 82 games seems reasonable and possible if we can get Spring Training restarted soon. Probably the one thing I do not like about the NBA’s plans is the season extending to December 1st which delays the start of their 2021 season. I’d rather see season modifications made for this year, without impacting next. If MLB is still playing baseball in December, next season would have to be delayed. Honestly, the thought of baseball past Halloween is bone-chillingly cold. 

It seems like in what could have been (should have been?) a championship year for the Yankees, we’ll somehow get cheated out of watching this talented team perform at its highest level. A random team will get hot and ride it to short season success. No doubt a reduced schedule will help teams like the Boston Red Sox as their flaws can be masked over a shorter collection of games. The cheaters win again. However this season plays out, I am ready to begin and finish it so that we can move on to, hopefully, 162 regular season games next year. 2020, despite the numbers, has not been a good year to see clearly. 

I do think the longer this drags out, the more I am in favor of scraping the entire season. I never thought I’d say that, but I am tired of the MLB owners using their own self-serving agendas in an attempt to get far-reaching concessions from the players. I know the players may be guilty of their own selfishness but if the two sides wanted to play baseball as soon as possible, it would happen…particularly the greedy owners.   

I know it’s easier for the NBA and NHL to put together plans for their respective post-season schedules since they’ve both already played the bulk of their regular season games this year whereas MLB is just trying to get started. That’s a big difference and surely accounts for some of the delay in the two sides coming together for the greater good. I think what bothers me more is that a labor dispute is right around the corner when the current collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2021 season. There is potential for more disruptions in play regardless of what happens this season. The next couple of years are going to be rocky. I wish MLB had a better, stronger commissioner in place than Rob Manfred. As they say, it is the difficult times that define us. Manfred faces the biggest challenges that have been encountered by his office in years. Good or bad, he will be remembered for how he handles this path and the success (or lack thereof) emerging from his choices and decisions.

Photo Credit: John Raoux, AP


I think there is still some optimism for a 2020 season but honestly I think it’s anybody’s guess.  This could easily go either way. You’d think eventually the almighty dollar would be the winner for bringing back baseball but when you have billions like a many of the MLB owners, it’s easy to move on to other play things. 

Thinking about a potential season, I know I am, like many, anxious and excited to see Gerrit Cole in Pinstripes but I am equally excited to see the potential of young players who will get their first significant opportunities for the Show, like Michael King, Deivi Garcia, and others.

I can still remember when Don Mattingly was in the minors and referred to as “just a singles hitter”. The excitement of opportunity and changing perceptions is the beautiful aspect of our favorite sport. Mike Ford surprised many people last year. Going into the season, it appeared he was just another name on a long list of prospects that would probably need a change of scenery for any hope to accomplish his Major League dreams. A Ryan McBroom type of dump on the Kansas City Royals (no disrespect to McBroom…just making the point that the door of opportunity never opened for him at Yankee Stadium). I want to see what Ford can do now that his stock has been raised in the eyes of the Yankees. I like the current combo of Ford and Luke Voit, certainly more so than the previous Voit/Greg Bird duo. I liked Bird but you couldn’t trust him to stay healthy. Ford seems more durable. They may not be Mattingly, Tino Martinez, Jason Giambi or Mark Teixeira, but they can be World Series champions.   

Photo Credit: AP


Is Gio Urshela for real? This remains a valid question. I am glad the roster includes Miguel Andujar, defensive shortcomings and all, as a fallback plan if Urshela proves to be a one season wonder. Ideally, I hope Gio builds upon last season and is even better, with greater consistency, this season. There’s a role for Andujar on this team regardless of what happens with Gio. 

If I have one big concern, it has to be the mystery of Aaron Judge’s health. We really need Giancarlo Stanton to stay healthy so that he can be the monster bat if Judge is not ready for whatever reason. It seems weird that I am more concerned about Judge’s health than Stanton’s but it is what it is. I think Judge is such an important part of the team and I don’t want to see injuries derail his luster in the Bronx and lead to an eventual premature exit. For Stanton, I would just like to see a strong beginning to end with no or minimal time on the DL. I may be asking for a lot but the lineup is better with one or both of these guys in it.

While I think Aaron Boone has really grown into a great manager, I am interested in seeing how the dynamics of a new bench coach play out with Carlos Mendoza taking over for the departed Josh Bard. We didn’t really get to see much of the relationship during the shortened Spring Training in late February and early March. I am excited for Mendy and I think he’ll be successful in his new role. He certainly has the command and respect of the players. A bench coach is a bit of an unsung role but the power of in-game decisions is hugely important and Boonie needs as much input as possible to make the best possible decisions. I know Bard is a smart guy but from the outside looking in, Mendy seems to be more of a players coach. I could be wrong on that one since I don’t have any insight into the relationships but from my outside view, there seems to be better trust in the new bench coach. 

Lastly, but most importantly…

Photo Credit: Adam Berry, Getty Images


This week has been a very challenging time for our Nation. I am not a political person and I don’t want to use the blog as a soap box, but I would be remiss for not saying anything. I believe George Floyd was a good man and I believe his death was wrong, so very wrong. I am grateful his killer has been charged with second degree murder but I want more, I want a conviction with the maximum sentence. I am glad his accomplices, the other Minneapolis police officers who stood by doing nothing, have also been charged.

#BlackLivesMatter

Too many men and women have died unfairly for the color of their skin. White supremacy or privilege must end. We are all people with genuine feelings and emotions who love our friends and family. We’re all capable of accomplishing great things in this world and making it a better place for our children. I support the peaceful protests staged around the country, while separating the looting and violence as acts of ignorance and greed. I tend to be an eternal optimist but I hope the tragedy that befell George Floyd can be used to exact the necessary change from our country to make this a safer world for everyone and eliminate racial injustice forevermore. The realist in me knows this will be an ongoing fight but I truly hope we can make positive advances in the right direction and the end of wrongful injuries and death and police brutality are near. When we’re dead and gone, we’ll just be a collection of bones or ashes. The time to make a difference is now. Together, we can bring unity to the United States and make this a better place for everyone. 

As always, Go Yankees!

Waiting for Mr Baseball…

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Photo Credit: Associated Press

Our favorite pastime is sorely missed…

We continue to sit and wait to see if the 2020 MLB baseball season will start or even happen. Unfortunately, the coronavirus continues to increase its grip on the country and many of us wait this out at our homes, with minimal external trips for necessities. We’ve seen the passing of many people who could not overcome the deadly effects of the virus and can only hope things begin to turn around soon.

It was good to see MLB and the Players Union come together for compromise regarding the shortened or possibly lost season. The players maintain service time but that’s certainly the least of the concerns from my perspective as a fan. At the present time, there is a possibility that Mookie Betts never plays a regular season game for the Los Angeles Dodgers. I continue to be cautiously optimistic for a shortened season and do want to see Mookie in Dodger Blue for meaningful games (although simply watching the Yankee pinstripes on a baseball field is more desirable).

Fans wearing the number 42 of New York Yankees relief pitcher  Mariano Rivera line up to enter the stadium in MLB game in New York
Photo Credit: Ray Stubblebine, Reuters

At this point, I don’t think anyone really knows what the 2020 MLB season will look like. I’d like to see them play at least 120 games if possible. The idea of using many double-headers to get in as many games as they can seems to be an invitation to injury in my opinion. There’s talk the rosters will be expanded beyond 26 players, at least at the start of the season, as a hedge against injury but that’s not enough. If they expand to say 28 or 29 players, that’s not really going to help in the long run. I am hopeful for as many games as can be played but mostly within the confines of single games per day.

I know Los Angeles was looking forward to hosting this year’s All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium but it does appear the All-Star Break will be one of the sacrifices in an altered, reduced schedule.

I’ve seen the talk about a two-week mini-Spring Training if/when baseball resumes, but I share Yankee manager Aaron Boone’s opinion teams need more time than that (3 to 4 weeks is more realistic). Where we sit today, it seems June would be the earliest we could potentially see regular season baseball again and that’s assuming things with COVID-19 start to improve soon.

The Yankees were scheduled to play 60 total games from March 26th through the end of May. To get in 120 games would require creative scheduling or an extension of the season deeper into October, possibly pushing the playoffs into November. The thought of Yankees baseball in the Bronx after Halloween is a scary thought if for no other reason than the colder temps. There’s talk of neutral sites. Does that mean we could see the Yankees play “home” games at the Tin Can they call Tropicana Field in St Petersburg, FL? It does make more sense for the Yankees to play alternate home games near their Spring Training home and minor league headquarters than other cities if they can’t play in New York City.

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Photo Credit: Reinhold Matay, AP

At this point, anything is purely speculation so we continue to wait and hopefully all of us stay healthy in the meantime.

There was some transaction activity until MLB froze transactions temporarily with this week’s agreement. The Yankees optioned fifth starter candidate Michael King, along with reliever Ben Heller, starter Deivi Garcia and infielder Thairo Estrada to the minors. All, except Garcia who went to Double A Trenton, were assigned to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.

Not surprised at any of the names, but Estrada’s demotion does point to the success of Tyler Wade making the club as its backup infielder (and on some occasions, outfielder) and maybe even non-roster invitee Rosell Herrera, who opened a few eyes before Spring Training was shut down. I have thought this could be a big breakout year for the speedy Wade so time will tell if he gets the chance. Garcia is clearly not ready yet although his arrival looms on the horizon. King and Heller are two guys that I thought had legitimate chances to make the Opening Day roster.  But the longer the delay goes on, the better the chance James Paxton is ready to join the starting rotation. Under that scenario, Jordan Montgomery moves from fourth to fifth starter which eliminates the immediate need for King. I’ve long admired Heller but I know, like Monty, he is working his way back from Tommy John surgery and it probably makes more sense to have him continue his work at Triple A until he proves he is ready to be an answer in the bullpen. Realistically, I think we’ll see all four of these players at the Major League level at some point during the season but that’s not exactly a bold prediction.

With starting pitchers Chris Sale and Noah Syndergaard opting for Tommy John surgery, it makes you wonder who is next. Granted, I am not a fan of the Red Sox or the Mets, but I hope both guys have successful surgeries with full recovery to good health. I respect both pitchers and I look forward to their respective returns to top form.

Moving off-topic to football, it is going to be very weird to see Tom Brady performing as the quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I don’t like the New England Patriots but the thought of Brady in anything other than a Patriots uniform seems wrong. As a Vikings fan, I got to see hated rival Brett Favre suit up in purple and gold but that’s not the same since Favre, a great quarterback, is not on the same level as Brady who will go down as one of the greatest to ever play the position, if not the greatest. I am not convinced Brady will see the same level of success with the Bucs and it’s kind of sad to see him go out as anything but the best. I had hoped he would come to Los Angeles to play for the Chargers, but the Californian opted for the “home” city of the Yankees, playing next to Steinbrenner Field.

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NFL free agency has not been kind to my team, the Minnesota Vikings. The defensive backfield has been decimated by the departures of Xavier Rhodes (Colts), Trae Waynes (Bengals) and Mackenzie Alexander (Bengals). He is not the player he once was but the Cleveland Browns signed Andrew Sendejo. The Vikings placed the franchise tag on Anthony Harris, but his name continues to come up in potential trades. The defensive backfield is going to look substantially different this year, although I am glad All-Star safety Harrison Smith remains in place. He’ll need Holton Hill, Mike Hughes, and Kris Boyd to step up and whomever else the Vikings decide to bring in through free agency and the draft.

The Vikings’ receiving corps will also look different with the trade of Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills. While I will miss the talent Diggs brought to the field, I won’t miss the drama that came with him. He’ll forever be immortalized in Minnesota for the famed Minneapolis Miracle catch a few seasons ago against the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs, but life moves on.  Former Tennessee Titans wide receiver Tajaé Sharpe joins the team in a bid to secure the second receiver role behind the team’s premier receiver, Adam Thielen. The 25-year-old New Jersey native had 25 catches last year for the Titans, accumulating 329 yards and scoring four touchdowns. I didn’t know much about him prior to this year, but I am excited for him to compete with the other young receivers on the Vikings roster.  Ironically, Sharpe made his NFL debut in 2016 against the Vikings, grabbing 7 passes for 76 yards. Fortunately, the Vikings won the game, but I’m fine if Sharpe wants to keep up that production when there are Vikings on the field.

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Dallas Cowboys
Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Although the decision for the NFL Draft to proceed as scheduled next month is highly controversial, I am glad they’ll do it. We need the distraction and the return of Sports in any capacity is much appreciated.

I thought I had seen my last snow in Colorado but it was not to be. The ground, as I type this post, is covered with the white stuff. This, I think, is the last.  I know Colorado weather is so fickle but it does appear temps will be slightly better for the coming days. Still not crazy about moving during this crazy (and unhealthy) time but I will do my best to stay safe.  I am looking forward to my new home and the end to Winter as I presently know it.  Kind of funny to think that today I need a heavy coat to go outside but will be wearing shorts in a couple of weeks.

Stay safe and healthy.

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!

Now Batting, I Have No Friggin’ Clue…

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Yankees struggle to stay healthy…

With no offense to Aaron Judge, I think I am starting to prefer having outfielders who are 6’4” or less. The big guys just seem to have too much trouble staying on the field. It was a little disheartening yesterday to learn Judge has a stress fracture in his right first rib. He apparently suffered the injury last September while making a diving catch. After weeks of not knowing what was wrong, I am glad they were finally able to diagnose the issue with Judge. But on the other hand, it’s a bit frustrating that the team has suffered multiple injuries that occurred last year, only to find out about them this Spring and not earlier.

Whether we are talking about Luis Severino, James Paxton, or Aaron Judge, it seems like earlier diagnosis or action would have been better but I am not a doctor and I only know what I can see from afar.  I hope medical treatment and rest will help Judge overcome the latest setback. Surgery has been mentioned as a possibility but I really hope it doesn’t come to that. If so, it will be more significant lost playing time for one of the team’s best players. If Judge can’t stay healthy, he’ll hit the proverbial fork in the road in a few seasons when the team no longer has control and the Yankees could choose to walk away. It’s not like we’ve never seen popular guys leave before.  Judge is one of my favorite Yankees and I really hope that he overcomes the rash of injuries to be the productive player we know he can be.

MLB: Spring Training-Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees
Photo Credit: CBS Sports

This probably almost guarantees Miguel Andujar will be primarily an outfielder and DH this season. Granted, Mike Tauchman is going to be a busy man but he’ll be needed to spell Brett Gardner in center. I am sure the Sock Man will play corner outfield positions too (obviously) but I think I am excited about Miggy’s potential. The caveat is that Gio Urshela must prove that last year was not a fluke, otherwise, MIggy will be back at third which, admittedly, I’d prefer not to see. I’d rather have Andujar as the full-time DH if he can’t master the outfield. The Yankees do need his bat in the lineup and I am glad he’s there at time when Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are not.

This probably also ensures Clint Frazier will head to Baltimore with the team in less than three weeks rather than making the trip to Moosic, PA. I’ve long stated Frazier needs to play at the Major League level. I am firm in my opinion the Yankees either need to play him or trade him. He gets a chance to either prove the Yankees need him or he can showcase himself for other teams. Frazier is probably my early candidate for ex-Yankee by the time the July trading deadline rolls around. But honestly, I’d prefer watching him excel with the Yankees. The problem is the crowded outfield once Stanton and Judge return.  Granted, the Yankees will probably put Stanton in bubble wrap and house him at DH but still. There’s no scenario that I see which benefits sending Frazier to Triple A again. It’s not good for him and it’s not good for the Yankees (a waste of Frazier’s talent and potential).

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

It is good to hear James Paxton is getting close to resuming baseball activities after his successful recovery from back surgery. It does give hope he’ll return in May rather than June which is best case scenario. As for the role of fifth starter while Big Maple is out, I had been pulling for Mike King with the belief Jonathan Loaisiga should be in the pen. However, Loaisiga has been one of the Yankees’ best pitchers this Spring and he’s starting to change my mind. I continue to harbor fear the injury risk is greater as a starter for him, but there’s no doubt Loaisiga can play a huge role for the Yankees this year. I am pulling for him.

I received my copy of the latest Yankees Magazine in the mail yesterday. I think it was a twisted joke that one of the headlines at the top reads “SEVY’S READY FOR 2020”. Oh my, wondering what could have been with Sevy and Gerrit Cole at the top of the rotation this year. I guess we have something to look forward to in late 2021 or for the 2022 season when Sevy returns at full strength.

I was a little disappointed to see the Boston Red Sox sign former Houston pitcher Colin McHugh. I thought McHugh might be a good option for the Yankees with his ability to pitch effectively in both starting and relief roles. The Yankees seem committed to their in-house options, although there has been some smoke lately about other pitchers they might be looking at on the trade market. Miguel Andujar for Steven Matz? No, thank you. The downside is the lack of motivation for teams to make March or April trades when everybody thinks they have a chance. Well, except for the Baltimore Orioles.

I remain optimistic Gary Sanchez will have a good season and it is disappointing to hear the boos for him, especially after last night’s loss to the Orioles. Gary isn’t exactly helping his own cause with one hit in 17 Spring at-bats, but I am not going to fret about Spring Training. If I did, I’d be on the ledge for all those home runs Gerrit Cole gave up the other day. This is probably where I miss Austin Romine. I’ll never be one of those who thought Ro should start over El Gary, but it was nice having him as a safety net. I like Kyle Higashioka but he hasn’t proven himself yet so I just don’t have the same confidence in Gary’s backup as years past. Chris Iannetta has carved out a nice little Major League career over the years but there’s not really anybody behind Higgy that provides more comfort. I really hope Gary hits the ground running in three weeks and doesn’t look back. Higgy playing the role of a backup quarterback with baseball cap turned around, holding a clipboard, is ideal. I know, you can’t wear your caps backwards in baseball and you can’t hold a clipboard but you know what I mean.

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Photo Credit: J Conrad Williams, Jr, Newsday

Although I do not follow the Kansas City Royals, I read this morning that former Yankees farmhand Ryan McBroom is expected to play in a first base platoon for the Royals to open the season. Good for him. I will always think of McBroom as the guy we got for Robert Refsnyder. Sitting here without looking it up, I have absolutely no clue who the Yankees got for McBroom but he’ll be forever connected to Refsnyder, at least in my mind. For the record, the Yankees didn’t get anybody for McBroom. He was purchased from the Yankees (“international bonus pool money and a player to be named later or cash considerations”). Money talks.

After living in Denver for the past four years and having to watch National League baseball at Coors Field, I am glad to be returning to Los Angeles and the American League. I’ll be in Orange County near Angel Stadium so, unlike the Angels, I guess I can’t say I am from Los Angeles but close enough. All things considered, I prefer to be closer to Dodger Stadium (lived two miles away the last time I lived in LA) but it’s just a train ride and bus trip away. I am looking forward to getting a firsthand look at Mike Trout and already have tickets for multiple games. I’ve seen a lot of games at Angel Stadium over the years so that part is not a new experience, but I am anxious to see what Joe Maddon can do with the Halos even if the Angels are still short in the starting pitching arena. Anthony Rendon helps give the team some optimism and Jo Adell looks like the real deal in the not-so-distant future. Nevertheless, I am not suddenly going to become an Angels fan. I never embraced the Colorado Rockies, but it doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy good baseball.

As always, Go Yankees!

Yankees Settle All Arbitration-Eligible Cases…

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New deals for the 9 Arb-Eligible Yankees…

ESPN MLB Insider Jeff Passan set the stage for the chaotic day yesterday when he tweeted: “Your Twitter feeds are going to be deluged today. Between now and this afternoon, 155 arbitration-eligible players will either agree upon salaries for the 2020 season or exchange desired salary numbers with teams. It’s always an extraordinarily hectic day for players and teams.” He was right. When the dust settled, all but 20 players had agreed to salary deals. Fortunately, none of those guys were Yankees as all nine players settled with the team.

With visions of Yankees Team President Randy Levine spiking a figurative football a few years ago when the Yankees beat Dellin Betances in arbitration, I am glad the team avoided the ugly confrontation with their players again this year.

For the arb-eligible Yankees, here are the results. The figures in parentheses are the projections per MLB Trade Rumors:

  • James Paxton, $12.5 million ($12.9M)
  • Aaron Judge, $8.5 million ($6.4M)
  • Gary Sanchez, $5 million ($5.6M)
  • Tommy Kahnle, $2.65 million ($3.0M)
  • Gio Urshela, $2.475 million ($2.2M)
  • Chad Green, $1.275 million ($1.4M)
  • Luis Cessa, $895,000 ($1.1M)
  • Jordan Montgomery, $805,000 ($1.2M)
  • Jonathan Holder, $750,000 ($800K)

I’d say the Yankees did a very good job bringing resolution to these cases. The only player who made significantly more than his projection was Aaron Judge and there’s no doubt he is worth the money, if not more. No doubt he would have made much more on the agreement if he had not missed so much time last year. Not sure he would have matched Cody Bellinger’s record first-year arbitration salary of $11.5 million considering Cody’s MVP year, but he would have been close as arguably the Yankees’ best position player.

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Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann, Getty Images

Jeff Passan also reported the following players did not settle and, barring agreements between now and then, are expected to go to arbitration hearings:

  • Jesus Aguilar
  • Nick Ahmed
  • Pedro Baez
  • Andrew Benintendi
  • Jose Berrios
  • Archie Bradley
  • Aledmys Diaz
  • Brian Goodwin
  • Shane Greene
  • Josh Hader
  • Max Muncy
  • Hector Neris
  • Joc Pederson
  • J.T. Realmuto
  • Eduardo Rodriguez
  • George Springer
  • Trevor Story
  • Brent Suter
  • Chris Taylor
  • Tony Wolters

The Los Angeles Dodgers, a team that historically settles with their arb-eligible players, really stick out on this list. So do the Boston Red Sox who did settle with much rumored trade candidate Mookie Betts for $27 million. It really makes me appreciate the Yankees for ensuring agreements with all of their players. Happy Yankees make for happy Yankee fans.

No big news for the Yankees so far in the new year, player-wise anyway. They did sign former Colorado Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta this week to a minor league deal with the presumed Spring Training invitation. Iannetta was released by the Rockies last August. He’s clearly a depth signing as I hold no expectation he’ll beat out Kyle Higashioka for backup catching duties but he does help to provide support if either Gary Sanchez or Higgy go down with injuries. I like the thought of Iannetta better than the recently re-signed Erik Kratz.

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Iannetta, who will be 37 shortly after the start of the season, has clearly seen his better days. Steamer projects him to play 60 games with 2 home runs and 7 RBIs, batting .218/.314/.402, .304 wOBA and 88 wRC+. In other words, pray for good health behind the plate.

There was a part of me hoping for a reunion with catcher John Ryan Murphy despite his underwhelming performance with the bat since he left the Yankees. He is no longer an option after signing a minor league deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates yesterday. Hard to believe that Murphy is still only 28. Pittsburgh is probably a good place for him to land since the Pirates seem to have a way of resurrecting former Yankee backup catchers.

The Yankees also signed former Los Angeles Angels starter Nick Tropeano, a Long Island native, to a minor league deal. Tropeano, 29, a righty, is presumably depth for Triple A. While he showed promise for the Angels a few years ago, he’s never been the same since undergoing Tommy John surgery in August 2016. Last year, he gave up 15 runs in 13 2/3 innings at the Major League level for the Halos. He took his only loss last July in a dreadful start against the Baltimore Orioles when he was hammered for 7 runs in five innings. Here’s hoping for greater success with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. He does carry an infamous stat. He’s the only pitcher to record a one-pitch strikeout.  He was pitching in Double A for the Houston Astros affiliate in August 2013. In the sixth inning of a game against the A’s affiliate, the batter, Vinnie Catricala, took a pitch he thought was outside. When the ump called strike, Catricala stepped out of the batter’s box to protest the call. The umpire, Ron Teague, invoking a little known rule, called an automatic strike. When Catricala didn’t step back into the box as instructed by Teague, the ump called him out by strikeout. Tropeano, with one pitch, observed the strikeout while standing on the pitching mound.  It’s something the game may never see again. For Catricala, the total of 9.4 seconds out of the batter’s box combined with his arguing, earned him an ejection from the game.

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While I still expect the Yankees to trade RHP J.A. Happ and most, if not all, of his contract, Happ who wore #33 in Toronto with the Blue Jays, dropped #34 this week to take Greg Bird’s vacated number. The Yankees still need to clear room on the 40-man roster once the Brett Gardner deal becomes official. Not sure what is taking so long. At first, I thought the holidays were the obstacle but at this point, it must be about clearing space on the roster. Who knows. I am sure it will be official before Gardy has to report to Tampa next month. If the Yankees had to drop someone right now, my vote would be for Stephen Tarpley. But for luxury tax purposes, the best case scenario is to move Happ’s money to open a spot for Gardy. I have full confidence in Jordan Montgomery as the team’s fifth starter.

I think the Yankees will continue to look for clever minor league signings (the low cost/high reward variety). Although they’ve been heavily criticized this off-season for their inactivity, I liked the Los Angeles Dodgers signing of former Milwaukee Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson. Granted, Nelson may never be the pitcher he once was, but I thought it was a good risk to take. There was a time that Nelson represented the hope of the Brewers starting rotation until he was derailed by injuries. Nelson is only 30 and he’s someone that I’d take a chance on. I’d like to see the Yankees find that type of deal with a pitcher who could presumably offer more than say a guy like Tropeano. As for Nelson, he is probably better suited for the bullpen at this point of his career, but he always made me think of CC Sabathia for no other reason than he wore the same number with the Brewers as CC did (#52) and is the same heighth (6’6”). For the Sabathia Stans, I am not comparing their stats or implying any close relationship.

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I fully expect to hear reports of Yankees GM Brian Cashman rummaging through dumpsters between now and February 12th. There will be no Josh Hader or Nolan Arenado sightings in Tampa next month but there could be a few recognizable names ready to compete for roles with the team.

For those of you arguing between Miguel Andujar and Gio Urshela, both players can co-exist on the Yankees roster. I am glad to have both and looking forward to their respective contributions. I have no desire to pick one over the other. Ultimately, Aaron Boone and his staff will make the right choices about who to play and where. I can easily see scenarios with both players in the lineup, producing and helping the Yankees in their drive to dominate the American League.

As always, Go Yankees!

The Sweet Sound of Victory…

Photo Credit: Mary Altaffer, AP

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Andy Cross, The Denver Post

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

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

Photo Credit: AP

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Tim Dougherty, The Free Lance-Star

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

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

As always, Go Yankees!

The Failure to Get A’s…

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

Exam against top AL Wild Card challenger not going well…

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

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Elsa, Getty Images

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

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

Photo Credit: Mark J Terrill, AP

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

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

 

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

As always, Go Yankees!

The Power of Pitching and Power…

Photo Credit: Mark J Terrill, Associated Press

Yanks End 4-Game Skid…

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

Photo Credit: Robert Gauthier, Los Angeles Times

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

Photo Credit: Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG

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

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

Photo Credit: John McCoy, Getty Images

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

Photo Credit: Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG

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

Photo Credit: Mark J Terrill, Associated Press

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Stacey Wescott, The Chicago Tribune

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

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

Photo Credit: Dean Rutz, The Seattle Times

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

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

Photo Credit: Dean Rutz, The Seattle Times

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

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

As always, Go Yankees!