Tagged: Adam Ottavino

The Journey Has Only Begun…

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, New York Post

AL East Championship is Step 1…

The Yankees may have won the AL Eastern Division Championship, but the road ahead is full of challenges. I am not holding my breath the Yankees will nail down home field advantage. The Yankees did pick up a game on the Houston Astros last night, and trail the AL Leaders by only a half-game but realistically it is a game and a half advantage for the Astros since they won the season series between the two teams. With only six regular season games left for the Yankees and a soft schedule for Houston (Mariners and Angels), it will be difficult to overcome the difference.

So, at this point, I am assuming that the Yankees will finish with the second best record in the AL and will host the Minnesota Twins in the ALDS. While having home field advantage would be nice with a potential playoff series against the Astros looming if both teams can advance to the American League Championship Series, you could argue that facing the Twins, a team the Yankees have historically matched up well against, is preferred over facing the potential Wild Card winning Oakland A’s who have been among baseball’s hottest teams recently.  Honestly, I don’t really care who the Yankees face. ‘To be the best you have to beat the best’ so however this plays out is fine with me. Either the Yankees can win or they can’t.  If they can’t, they are not deserving of advancing to the World Series. If the Yankees need the benefit of where the games are played, it was not meant to be. I think this team is good enough to beat anybody, anywhere.

I have no issue with Manager Aaron Boone’s decision to rest players in preparation for October.

Photo Credit: AP

The Yankees got good news yesterday on second baseman Gleyber Torres when the results of his MRI came back negative. He is one guy the Yankees could ill afford to lose if they intend to go deep into October. I’d love to see him reach 40 home runs (he only needs two more) but honestly the most important thing is his health. He’ll sit out again today and will likely return to the field when the Yankees play Tuesday night at Tropicana Field against the Wild Card contending Tampa Bay Rays. Two consecutive extra-inning walk-off’s by the Rays against the post-season eliminated Boston Red Sox have put them in the second Wild Card spot, a game ahead of the Cleveland Indians. Adam Ottavino seems like another guy that needs plenty of rest this month if he is to rediscover his earlier season magic.

To say I am disappointed with Domingo Germán is an understatement. Domestic violence can never be condoned and if he is guilty of the accusations, I believe he deserves significant punishment, including a long suspension and fine. His alleged actions were detrimental to the team and to the player individually. As a surprise 18-game winner this year, Germán had positioned himself to be a valuable member of the pitching staff heading into the playoffs and he was securing a long-term position going forward. With his selfish and appalling actions, he has jeopardized his future, potentially costing himself millions. Germán needs to find help to ensure this never happens again. His future literally depends upon it. 

Germán’s loss is softened by the return of Luis Severino, but that’s not really the point. Until the investigation is completed and Germán has served any subsequent penalties, he should not be allowed to play. The fact that he is the winningest pitcher on this year’s squad is irrelevant. He did this, not us.  

As far as replacements for Germán on the post-season roster, I like the idea of Jonathan Loaisiga who appears poised to be a breakout star in the bullpen.  

It was so good to see the brief return of Dellin Betances but so very sad to see his season end with an achilles tear. Thankfully two medical opinions determined that surgery is not necessary, but his start to the 2020 season could be delayed. Nevertheless, I am hopeful the Yankees and Betances can come together on a one-year deal to allow the impending free agent to rebuild value and position himself for the huge payday he had been destined for prior to the injury-marred 2019 season. If that means applying a qualifying offer to Betances, I am hopeful they do it. I am not ready to see Betances leave and hope this is not the end of his Yankee career.

We may not have Betances but, knock on wood, we do have Luis Severino and Giancarlo Stanton. I am glad to have both of them back and despite his health challenges this year (and poor results last October), I am glad Giancarlo Stanton is a Yankee. He can make a difference for this team and I am glad he’s here, healthy and ready to contribute. Stanton takes such an undeserved beating on Social Media. I hope his bat shuts up the naysayers in the coming weeks. I’d rather have Stanton in left field over Clint Frazier, Cameron Maybin, or Tyler Wade. Not bashing Wade, who has made me a believer he should be on the post-season roster with his versatility and speed, but Stanton is clearly the best left field option available. That would be the case even if other guys like Mike Tauchman and Aaron Hicks (which would push Brett Gardner back into the left field conversation) were healthy.

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac, Getty Images

Speaking of healthy, the Yankees are expected to get Edwin Encarnación back this week, most likely when the team travels to Arlington, Texas to take on the Texas Rangers for the regular season’s final series next weekend. Glad to see the Parrot will ride again. Speaking of Texas, it is sad the series will close out Globe Life Park in Arlington, at least in terms of baseball. 

I lived in the Dallas/Fort Worth area when the stadium opened in 1994. I remember watching so many games at the old Arlington Stadium (Don Mattingly loved hitting there), but the new stadium helped usher in the new era of retro baseball stadiums. Camden Yards stands out as the park that broke the mold, but Globe Life Park followed in support. It was known by many names over the years. I knew it as The Ballpark in Arlington and can remember how majestic it looked the first time I walked up to it. The stadium had subsequent names like Ameriquest Field and Rangers Ballpark before receiving its current name in 2014. After the final baseball game is played, the current stadium will be re-configured for football, becoming the home of the upcoming XFL Dallas Renegades. The Rangers will open their new park, Globe Life Field, which is adjacent to the current stadium, next season.

The health news for Gary Sanchez has been favorable and if the Yankees do not get him back in Texas, he should be ready for the ALDS which is good thing. I think Austin Romine has done a fine job but going to war, I want El Gary in the trenches.

Heading into October, I wish the Yankees were playing as hotly as the Oakland A’s and the Milwaukee Brewers but there’s time. Just as Masahiro Tanaka elevates his game when the stakes are increased, so goes the 2019 New York Yankees. When October play begins, I have no doubt the Yankees will be prepared and ready to prove supremacy. Whether they are successful remains to be seen, but it won’t be for lack of trying. This team is on a mission to prove they are the best.

I was a little surprised yesterday when the San Diego Padres announced they had relieved manager Andy Green of his duties. I guess if I had been following the Padres closely, I would have seen the handwriting on the wall. Green can probably relate to how Buck Showalter felt when he was fired by the Yankees after the 1995 season or how Joe Girardi felt when his Yankees contract was not renewed after the 2017 season. The next manager of the Padres is going to inherit a talented ball club with a very strong farm system ready to bear fruit. It seems more likely Joe Girardi would go to Chicago, if there’s an opening after the season, or possibly to the crosstown Mets, but I think San Diego would be a golden opportunity for Girardi if there’s mutual interest. With such great potential in San Diego, the Padres should have plenty of strong candidates for their opening. The pressure is on Padres GM A.J. Preller. He has to get this one right.

I thought it might be the end of the road for Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly but CEO Derek Jeter and company extended Donnie Baseball with a two-year contract and a mutual option for 2022. It is believed that Mattingly took a pay cut to stay with the cost-conscious Marlins. Record-wise, Mattingly hasn’t fared any better than the above-mentioned Andy Green, but he’ll get a chance to oversee the growth of the Marlins and their improving farm system (under the direction of former Yankee executive Gary Denbo). The prospects for the Marlins may not be as great as the Padres in the near future but Mattingly has long been one of my favorites and I think he’ll do a good job with the young talent posed to flow through Miami. As for this season, Mattingly helmed a club that lost 100 games (the Marlins are 53-101 as I type this post). After the “teardown” that followed Jeter’s arrival, it is not unexpected. But from here, I suspect Jeter will do what it takes to restore the Marlins to prominence. As much as I hate to see Jeter, Jorge Posada and Mattingly outside of the Yankees organization, I do wish them good luck with the rebuild.

Photo Credit: Lynne Sladky, AP

Well, as pesky as the Toronto Blue Jays have been for the Yankees, I am hopeful the Yankees can end the season series today with a win. It’s exciting to see what Luis Severino has in store for his second game of the 2019 season. Hopefully he goes deep into the game to build up his endurance and puts the team in position for their 102nd victory. A front three of James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka and Sevy is very exciting as the calendar page prepares to turn.

As always, Go Yankees!

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Playing “Prevent Defense” in the MLB…

Photo Credit: John E Sokolowski, USA TODAY Sports

What’s more important? Rest or Home Field Advantage…

I really dislike losing winnable games in September. Actually, I hate it anytime but it seems to be magnified in the season’s final month of the regular season. I get the need to balance health while competing with the Houston Astros for best record in the American League, but the Yankees seem to be failing the former and jeopardizing the latter. Last night’s walk-off home run in the 12th inning by Bo Bichette allowed the lowly Toronto Blue Jays to overcome the Yankees for the second walk-off loss by the Pinstripers since last Tuesday night. The balk given up by Adam Ottavino which allowed the Jays to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh was a microcosm of the sloppy play lately.  

Photo Credit: AP

The loss, coupled with a win by the Astros, pulls Houston to within a game of the Yankees for best record and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Yankees are 97-52, while the Astros are 96-53, with an unlucky 13 games to play. If the Yankees fail in either the ALDS or ALCS, I know that I’ll look back on September with much frustration. It kind of feels like a NFL team playing prevent defense to protect a lead which inevitably fails (or so it seems). 

Injuries happen but there’s no doubt the Yankees need to revisit their practices and procedures given the plethora of injuries this year, setting an all-time high for guys on the injured list. I think the one recent injury that really bugs me is the latest groin injury suffered by Gary Sanchez which has potentially cost him the rest of the regular season. If the injury was suffered while catching or running out a hit, it’s one thing but to lose El Gary on a stolen base attempt is ridiculous. Kevin Kernan of The New York Post put it best this morning in his column when he says “Advice to Yankees: Never give Sanchez a green light again in his career.” Agreed! A stolen base attempt is such a high risk play. If the Yankees need Sanchez stealing bases to win games, we’re in trouble. There’s no way I would have had Sanchez running in that situation. I know I have the benefit of hindsight but I truly would have said that before the injury happened.  

I am excited Luis Severino will finally make his season debut next Tuesday when the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim visit the Bronx. Not quite sure what to expect as there will be rust despite the rehab appearances in the Minor Leagues but a healthy Sevy is very important for October. There’s no doubt he has the potential of having a ‘Mike Mussina in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS’ moment. I am equally excited about the impending return of Giancarlo Stanton. He is one guy that I hope the team can keep healthy for the duration of the season. With the losses of Edwin Encarnacion, Mike Tauchman, and Gary Sanchez, Stanton’s bat looms large. It would have even if those guys had stayed healthy. Stanton has had more than his share of critics but I know I am not one of them. I am glad Giancarlo Stanton is a Yankee and I look forward to his return. Jordan Montgomery is expected to make an appearance during Sunday’s game but I am not expecting much from him. I’ve seen some on Social Media act as though the return of Monty equals the return of an ace. Sorry, but he’s not in the same league as Severino. Sevy is the far more valuable pitcher.  Sevy is also not making a return from Tommy John surgery like Gumby is. I don’t expect #47 to be a factor until 2020 at the earliest despite whatever he is able to do this month. It would be a huge surprise for him to even be on the post-season roster.

Speaking of injuries, I really feel badly for the Milwaukee Brewers. One game out of the NL Wild Card chase after their loss last night, the Brewers suffered a larger loss earlier in the week when superstar Christian Yelich fractured his kneecap and won’t be back on a baseball field until next Spring. 

Photo Credit: Mark Brown, Getty Images

I know, Yankee fans are not going to feel sorry for injuries on other teams, but you can argue that losing a single player hurts the Brewers more than losing what? 30 players has hurt the Yankees. I know, that’s an absurd statement but still, there’s an element of truth to it. Yelich and Cody Bellinger of the Los Angeles Dodgers have battled for the potential NL Most Valuable Player Award all season. While Bellinger has been my favorite, I do hate to see Yelich lose out like this. He deserved better and so did the Brewers. I guess Tyler Austin will have to carry the Brew Crew now. Seriously, this does put an incredible amount of pressure on Mike Moustakas to be “the guy”.   

On the subject of injuries, I should also add how horrific it was to see the Blue Jays lose reliever Tim Mayza last night. After a misfired pitch behind the back of Didi Gregorius, who led off the top of the 10th inning, Mayza went to his knees in obvious pain and was escorted off the field. He’ll undergo a MRI to determine the extent of the injury but first (uneducated) guess is a ligament tear. I sincerely hope the injury is not as severe as it appears to be and that Mayza is able to return in 2020. Worst case scenario would mean Tommy John surgery and a lost season ahead. I really hope for Mayza’s sake it is not the case. He had been making the most of his opportunity in the Jays bullpen this season.

Photo Credit: Cole Burston, Getty Images

After the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders bowed out of the International League playoffs against the Tampa Bay Rays’ affiliate, it was great to see the Double A Trenton Thunder grab the Eastern League championship. The Thunder beat the Bowie Baysox, an affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles and a team managed by Zack Britton’s brother Buck, in four games to take the five-game championship series. Dellin Betances made an appearance in the deciding game, giving up a sixth inning homer in an inning of work. Luis Severino started and lost Game 2 of the series but it was more of a failure of team defense than Sevy’s pitches that cost them the game. First baseman Chris Gittens and pitchers Clarke Schmidt and Michael King, names we’ll be hearing at Yankee Stadium one day, delivered championship performances for Manager Pat Osborn’s team. Congrats to the Thunder for their highly successful season! 

Photo Credit: Kyle Franko, The Trentonian

Adonis Rosa, who was DFA’d this week when Ben Heller was moved from the 60-day IL to the active roster, cleared waivers and was sent outright to Triple A effectively ending his season but at least he remains in the organization. I guess the move didn’t really make a difference to me. There was no way Rosa was going to hold onto his valuable 40-man roster spot after the season and others like Ryan Dull, Cory Gearrin, and Tyler Lyons (who gave up Bichette’s walk-off HR last night) should be ex-Yankees when the big league club concludes its season and moves to protect certain high level prospects in advance of December’s Rule 5 Draft. I prefer a healthy Ben Heller to any of the aforementioned names and look forward to his 2020 contributions. Once the Yankees eliminate Clint Frazier in the off-season, Heller will be the last remaining piece from the Andrew Miller trade.

This has been a disappointing year for the Boston Red Sox but I was still somewhat surprised they fired President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski before season’s end. This action appears to have been inevitable since the Sox and owner John Henry have rebuffed attempts by Dombrowski to extend his contract since Spring Training. The Red Sox are presently ten games out of the AL Wild Card hunt and, barring a miracle, will not see October play. I’ve seen some say it would not be a surprise to see Dombrowski join the Yankees as a consultant given his close friendship with GM Brian Cashman. Nothing against Dombrowski but I don’t really want to see him join the Yankees. I am fearful the Yankees could lose Cashman’s chief lieutenant, Tim Naehring, a former Red Sock player, in Boston’s search for a replacement. But even if the Yankees lose Naehring, I wouldn’t want Dombrowski on my team. Naehring’s status as a candidate for Boston was significantly increased yesterday when the Arizona Diamondbacks extended their GM, Mike Hazen, a long-time Boston employee and the top speculated candidate for the vacancy.  

It’s starting to feel like Joe Girardi will be the next manager of the cross-town Mets or at least it seems that way to me. I always thought Girardi would end up in Chicago but that is not necessarily the case. If Cubs manager Joe Maddon steps down, it seems as though David Ross stands a better chance of getting the job than Girardi. It kind of sucks that we could be watching Girardi in a Mets uniform next season, managing former Yankee great Robinson Cano. I guess if Girardi does join the Mets, he’ll get a firsthand look at how differently the Wilpons run their organization in comparison to the Steinbrenner family. Good luck with that.

As always, Go Yankees!

A Savage Week Shows These Yankees Are Special…

Credit: Sarah Stier, Getty Images

Aaron Boone’s Defining Moment…

Thanks to noted podcaster @Jomboy of Talkin’ Yanks, the words of Yankees manager Aaron Boone to young home plate umpire Brennan Miller were immortalized on Thursday afternoon.

“My guys are fucking savages in that fucking box and you’re having a piece of shit start to this game. I feel bad for you, but fucking get better. That guy is a good pitcher, but our guys are fucking savages in that box, our guys are fucking savages in the fucking box, tighten it up right now.”  

The words, certain to become 2019’s rallying cry for the Yankees, almost immediately began showing up on t-shirts as they went viral thanks to social media. I loved every minute of it. I’ve been a Boone supporter since the day he was hired. I think at the time, my top choice had been San Francisco Giants bench coach Hensley Meulens but when the Yankees named Boone as the manager, I was on board with the choice. I liked Joe Girardi but I never once pined for his return after the decision was made to let him go upon the expiration of his contract following the 2017 season.

I knew there would be a learning curve for Boone. Every manager has to start some time. Joe Torre had his own early bumps with the Mets when he first started his managerial career. Boone’s mistakes last season were magnified, thanks to the New York media, and many fans were unforgiving. But as this season has progressed, the growth in Boone as a manager has been evident. It didn’t take his words this week to prove he had gotten better, it’s been on display for weeks, perhaps months. However, Thursday’s tirade showed the World that Aaron Boone has his players’ backs. He is an excellent leader and he has the full respect and command of the clubhouse. I think the ‘next man up’ mentality of the 2019 Yankees is fueled by Boone’s leadership style.

Credit: Kathy Willens, AP

Since the brim of Boone’s cap touched the brim of home plate umpire Brennan Miller’s cap during the post-ejection rant (seriously?), he was suspended for one game and served it last night against the Colorado Rockies. Bench coach Josh Bard, a graduate of Cherry Creek High School in Greenwood Village, Colorado (a suburb of Denver), served as Yankees manager against his once-hometown Rockies.

Boone’s words aside, this has been a memorable week for the Bronx Savages. The four-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays didn’t start well when Mets cast-off Travis d’Arnaud homered three times including the game-winner, a three-run shot off Aroldis Chapman in the top of the ninth inning on Monday night when the Yankees were just a strike away from victory. It was a tough loss to accept (harder than most), but the Yankees rebounded and took the next three games to win the series, leaving the Rays a distant eight games behind in the AL East standings. The Yankees have won 12 of 17 games from the Rays this year, and it’s been the difference-maker in the standings.

Despite the successful Tampa Bay series, I was a little worried going into last night’s game with the Rockies. It kind of felt like one of those series where the team, coming off an emotional series with the Rays and looking ahead to a road trip next week that takes the Yankees to Minneapolis and Boston to play AL contenders, could let up a little. But if Friday night’s game is any indication, it is still ‘pedal to the metal’. After falling behind 2-0, the Yankees coasted to the 8-2 victory after Edwin Encarnacion blasted his ‘walk-the-parrot’ grand slam to take the lead in the bottom of the third. With three hits and some excellent defensive play, many were referring to this as Mike Tauchman’s game. That’s what I’m Tauchin’ about! The former Colorado Rockie, who was never really given a shot to play in the Mile High City, showed his former team they may have erred in trading him away earlier this year. Tauchman has double the plate appearances with the Yankees this season than he had in two years with the Rockies (shuttling back and forth from the minors). Former Coloradan players DJ LeMahieu and Adam Ottavino, instrumental to the Rockies’ success of the past few seasons, also had a role in the decisive victory. Le Machine had two RBIs and Otto struck out the side in the top of the sixth inning. A friend, who is a die-hard Rockies fan, said she loves to see LeMahieu and Ottavino do well but “just not against us”.

The Yankees’ win, combined with losses by both the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox last night, leaves the Yanks nine games up in the AL East standings. They are 30 games over .500 for the first time this season at 63-33, and have 11 fewer losses than the second-place Rays. I am always fearful of a swoon that could erase the large lead, but you have to like where the Yankees sit entering play on July 20th. YES Network analyst David Cone had some great words after last night’s game:

“If you don’t like the Yankees, I mean if you are a Yankee hater, this has gotta be a really obnoxious year for you.”

Since trading deadline deals generally start popping up the week prior to the deadline, this coming week could be very active with the hard July 31st deadline just around the corner. The Yankees have been great so far this season despite the injury challenges, but the Houston Astros, with just one less win than the Yankees, could substantially improve their starting rotation in the next eleven days if they successfully land one of the top starting pitchers on the market to slot in behind Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. In other words, there is room for the Yankees to get better and they have to in order to ensure October success.

The Yankees had Jim Hendry, special assistant to Brian Cashman, and others in Detroit last night to watch Toronto’s Marcus Stroman. There were a number of other teams in attendance to watch the New York native shut out the lowly Tigers on six hits over seven innings, with five strikeouts and no walks. For Stroman, a trade to the Yankees would represent the elimination of a 27 1/2 game deficit in a single day.  It think that would energize him, as it would any of the names that have been connected to the Yankees in recent weeks. I think my only hangup with acquiring Stroman is sending quality talent to an AL East rival. In many ways, I’d prefer to see someone like Clint Frazier or Estevan Florial or Albert Abreu head to Cleveland or San Francisco for no other reason than they are not AL East teams. But I am very intrigued with the idea of having the talented Stroman in the starting rotation.

As much as I like Madison Bumgarner, I don’t really expect him to show up in the Bronx. He could find his way to Houston, Minneapolis, or Atlanta which wouldn’t be ideal but there’s not much we can do about it except beat him when the time comes. Robbie Ray of the Arizona Diamondbacks continues to be a name to watch but the D-Backs are only a game out of the NL Wild Card hunt. Meanwhile, the Texas Rangers have lost five in a row to push them 5 1/2 games out in the AL Wild Card chase, which could potentially increase chances that Mike Minor is dealt.

For all the names that have been mentioned, I still half-expect Brian Cashman to land a solid starter that no one has mentioned. For as much as I like Luis Severino and Dellin Betances, I am taking the approach they’ll provide nothing this year. The Yankees have played 99 games without them and it’s hard to envision them making a significant contribution with the 63 games remaining in the regular season. Maybe they become solid bullpen options by October but realistically I am not counting on it. It seems like there have been too many setbacks for both so I am not pinning any hopes on them.

I keep seeing Yankee fans saying the team shouldn’t trade Deivi Garcia or Estevan Florial or other top prospects in the organization. I am sorry but if the payoff is a World Series championship this year, NO ONE is untouchable. I guarantee the Chicago Cubs have never regretted their decision to trade Gleyber Torres in 2016. They might regret the 2017 trade of Eloy Jimenez but not Torres because it meant the first World Series championship in a century for them. It hasn’t been a century for the Yankees, but it has been ten long years and several Red Sox championships since the Yankees last hoisted the trophy. We need to keep an open mind and let Brian Cashman do his magic. He lives for these hot, humid July days and I am confident that he’ll make this exciting, fun and very special Yankee team even better in the coming days. Our goal is to take the World Series championship away from the Boston Red Sox. Anything less is unacceptable. I don’t want another ALDS or ALCS exit. The window of opportunity is now. There may be pain along the way, but we need to persevere. Like Buck Showalter said the other day, “prospects are just prospects”. I want guys who can make a difference in three months, not three years.

The Yankees released catcher Ryan Lavarnway from his minor league contract this week and in his first game with the Cincinnati Reds, the team that picked him up, he hits two home runs and drives in six RBIs. Of course he does. I know, he’ll never sustain it and will prove to be the journeyman catcher that he is, but it’s funny how guys prosper outside of Pinstripes when they land in low pressure environments.  Not exactly people that you’d want in the trenches with you but good for them.

The Baby Savages (DSL Yankees) are at it again. After scoring the most runs in professional baseball with their 38-2 thrashing of the Twins’ affiliate earlier this month, they scored 19 runs in the second inning of last night’s game with the DSL Angels en route to a 23-10 victory. They brought 23 men to the plate during the highly productive inning. They are only following the lead of the big league club.

As always, Go Yankees!

The Year of “Next Man Up”…

Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

Yankees win again in the City by the Bay…

I’ve tempered my expectations for the 2019 Yankees given the savage rash of injuries that have afflicted the team, but you have to love this ‘next man up’ attitude of the replacement Yankees. No doubt if they can continue to drive the team to sustained success, the October prospects for the eventual healthy Yankees appear to be very grand.

Every year, there’s a team that somehow has the ‘it’ quality in their chase for the pennant. Last year, there is no question the Boston Red Sox had it when they busted out of the gate quickly and seemingly found a way to win every night on their way to 108 regular season wins and, eventually, the World Series championship. The 2019 Yankees have had every reason to fold up their tent and hope for next year, except they haven’t. As each new guy shows up, someone comes up big and they move on to the next game, win after win.

The Yankees will have hard decisions to make when guys start to come back from the Injured List. I’d hate to be Aaron Boone having the conversations with the replacement Yankees that their spots on the MLB roster have been eliminated, whether it is through demotion to Triple A or designation for assignment. Giovanny Urshela is one of those guys. We knew he had a superior glove in Spring Training, but despite his ‘all glove/no bat’ reputation, he has come through in clutch situations this year with the lumber to help the team score runs. Honestly, I prefer Urshela over Troy Tulowitzki. I know they play different positions but if I could only choose one for the active roster, it would have to be Gio. I don’t trust Tulo to stay healthy and right now, with his stint on the Injured List, he is proving me right. For the record, I like to be proven wrong when I have a negative perception of a certain player. But that’s on Tulo, not me.

I was a little disappointed with the series finale in Anaheim on Thursday when Masahiro Tanaka gave up a couple of two-run homers to let the LA Angels tie the game, and then Boone went to the weaker arms in the pen to allow the Angels to blow the game open. However, winning three of four games, especially in Anaheim…a place that was once a House of Horrors for the Yanks, is tremendous.  I’d gladly settle for three of four or two of three every series.

The Yankees continued their winning ways last night with a 7-3 victory in the Bay Area opener against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park Oracle Park. It was weird seeing Tyler Austin wearing orange and black and playing this game as a foe. He had San Francisco’s first hit when he singled to right off James Paxton in the bottom of the first inning. He scored the Giants’ first run on a sac fly after Brandon Belt had doubled to move him to third. But with no offense to Austin, the game’s best first baseman was Luke Voit. Louis Linwood Voit III was 3-for-4 with a home run, three RBIs, and two runs scored.

Paxton was unable to make a “quality” start by definition (an out away from completing six full innings when the Giants made it a two-run game in the bottom of the sixth) but he was very effective nonetheless. He finished with eight strikeouts to improve his record to 3-2.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

I shudder to think of where the Yankees would be without the Big Maple. No question he is the team’s ace while Luis Severino is away. Unlike that last game in Anaheim, Aaron Boone made the right bullpen moves this game. Well, almost. I was disappointed with the three consecutive two-out walks by Zack Britton in the bottom of the seventh to load the bases, but all’s well that ends well. Adam Ottavino came in to strike out Buster Posey, his former NL West rival, to end the threat. So, despite those walks by Britton, the bullpen did not give up any hits or runs to the Giants to preserve the win for Paxton. I continue to stand by Britton but I know there are plenty of Yankee fans who would have preferred the return of David Robertson over Britton. Robertson is currently on the Injured List for the Philadelphia Phillies as he continues to recover from a Grade 1 flexor strain in his throwing arm. I guess D-Rob would have fit well on this year’s Yankees squad.

For everyone hoping the Yankees try to acquire Giants ace Madison Bumgarner at the trading deadline, this was not a good showcase for the one-time World Series hero. The lefty surrendered 11 hits and 5 runs in 5 2/3 innings to the team some call the New York RailRiders. He is 1-4 for the season with a 4.30 ERA.  I guess he knows how Chris Sale feels this season. Pitchers are fragile creatures unless your name is Mariano Rivera.

Photo Credit: Ben Margot/AP

One-time Yankee prospect Mark Melancon, who has struggled with injuries in recent years, surrendered a two-run homer in the ninth inning to Luke Voit. Another former Yank, catcher Erik Kratz, struck out swinging in a pinch-hitting appearance against closer Aroldis Chapman to end the game.

With the win, the Yankees (15-11) picked up a 1/2 game on the idle division-leading Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays game in Boston was rained out and won’t be made up until June. Yankees currently trail the Rays by only 1 1/2 games as the Rays have started to come back to Earth after their torrid start. Again, the replacement Yankees get so much credit for helping this team stay afloat until the big guns are back. Actually, ‘stay afloat’ is a poor choice of words because they are doing so much better. My expectation or hope was they’d stay afloat to weather this storm but, clearly, they’ve done much more.

I’ll certainly cheer on Cameron Maybin as the newest of the replacement Yankees but admittedly I was a bit underwhelmed when I heard that he had been acquired for Cash (loved the references by people on Twitter that GM Brian Cashman had sacrificed himself for Maybin). But it was the green stuff that went to Cleveland for Maybin and not the Yankees’ long-time GM. Maybin, toiling for Cleveland’s Triple A team, was no doubt excited just to get another big league opportunity. He spent Spring Training with the team he is presently facing (the Giants). Early on, it looked like Maybin was going to make the Giants’ roster but a DUI in mid-March contributed, in part, to his release on March 22nd.  To Maybin’s defense, he seems like a good guy and appreciative of his latest opportunity. I am certainly not expecting much from him and it’s more than likely his Yankees career will be brief, but hopefully he can make a contribution as the next man up.

Photo Credit: Ben Margot/AP

I had hoped that we would soon see the return of Giancarlo Stanton to man right field until Aaron Judge returns, but it sounds like we won’t see him on this road trip due to a temporary setback. Hopefully it is just a minor thing and we’ll see him when the Yankees return to the Bronx early next month. Once fearing that he’d be lost for the season with the partially torn right labrum, it now appears Miguel Andujar could return before Stanton does. I have absolutely no idea if Andujar can make the necessary throws at third with his injury, but he deserves the chance to show he can play the position despite Urshela’s solid role in holding down third base with the help of DJ LeMahieu. If not, I agree with those who say Andujar should be moved to first base and DH to share time with Luke Voit in alternating roles. Mike Ford should be the odd man out (not Urshela) but that’s alright. Andujar is far more important to this team than Ford is.

Photo Credit: Julie Jacobson/AP

This has been a tough week with the Yankees playing the Pacific Time Zone. For those of you in the Eastern Time Zone, my hat’s off to you if you’ve stayed up to watch the games. All I can say is thank God for DVR. At least there is only one more late night game (Tuesday night in Phoenix) before the Yankees return to New York. This weekend’s games are afternoon affairs. Same with Wednesday’s getaway game in Arizona to conclude the short two-game series with the Diamondbacks.

It’s a new day and another opportunity for a replacement Yank to step up. With J.A. Happ on the mound, they’ll need a few of the bats to come alive. Somehow, I suspect they’ll do it. They generally do.

As always, Go Yankees!

Opportunity Calls, Clint Frazier Answers…

Photo Credit: Gail Burton/AP

Yankees Overcome O’s, thanks to the long ball…

We knew it was only a matter of time until Aaron Judge began his monstrous assault on MLB baseballs, but it was Clint Frazier’s lightning quick three-run homer in the top of the eighth inning that allowed the Yankees to overtake the Baltimore Orioles in the 6-4 win at Camden Yards.

Frazier needed this moment. Frankly, the Yankees should have never put themselves in the position of needing Frazier’s big hit but they did. They had a golden opportunity to break the game open in the sixth inning when they loaded the bases with no outs against arguably MLB’s worst team. Frazier entered the game, pinching hitting for left fielder Mike Tauchman, but the inning unraveled from there. Gary Sanchez, on third, was picked off by O’s catcher Pedro Severino. Frazier struck out swinging for the second out, and Giovanny Urshela, in his first at-bat as a Yankee and pinch-hitting for Tyler Wade, grounded out to second to end the scoreless threat.

I didn’t really get Aaron Boone’s decision to keep Jonathan Holder in the game for the bottom of the seventh inning. He had entered the game in the fifth, in relief of starter J.A. Happ with only one out. He gave up a single to the second man he faced, Renato Nunez, in the bottom of the fifth, which scored a run for Baltimore (charged to Happ) to make it a one-run game at 3-2. I know Holder had an easy three-up, three-down inning in the sixth, but that’s as far as I would have pushed him. Instead, Boone left him in to start the seventh (why?). He hit the lead-off hitter, Cedric Mullins, and then gave up a single to right off the bat of Jonathan Villar which put runners at the corners.  Boone finally made a move, bringing Adam Ottavino into the game. Unfortunately, Greg Bird misplayed a grounder to first by Chris Davis. He bobbled the ball, didn’t step on first and then threw high to home. Mullins scored and Davis was safe at first. After Villar stole third, pinch-hitter Rio Ruiz, batting for Nunez, lofted a fly to center to score Villar with the go-ahead run.

It looked like the Yankees were going to go down quietly in the eighth. Greg Bird led off the inning against Orioles reliever Paul Fry with a fly-out to left. A pitching change brought reliever Miguel Castro into the game to face Gary Sanchez who flied out to right. But in the face of defeat for the Yankees, Castro struggled with his control and lost Gleyber Torres on balls to put a runner at first. Then, D.J. LeMahieu did what he does best. He singled to right, his third hit of the game, and the Yankees had runners at the corners. Enter Clint Frazier. With the count at 2-2, Castro threw a slider that was meant for the low outside corner. Fortunately for The Wildling and much to the dismay of Orioles catcher Pedro Severino, the ball came in over the juicy part of the plate and Frazier didn’t miss his opportunity. With the rapid fire of his bat, the ball went screaming out of the park. The Yankees were up, 6-4.

Adam Ottavino walked Hanser Alberto, briefly a Yankee this past Winter, to lead off the eighth but got the next two outs with his insane pitches. With Alberto on second, Aaron Boone took the ball from Ottavino and brought in Chad Green. Greeny hit the shirt of Cedric Mullins to put a runner at first. The next batter, Jonathan Villar, hit an infield grounder to D.J. LeMahieu, who had slid over to second base from third when Giovanny Urshela entered the game. LeMahieu had an uncharacteristic bobble of the ball and Villar beat D.J.’s throw to Gleyber Torres standing on second base. The bases were loaded, giving the Orioles a golden opportunity to recapture the lead. Thankfully, it was only Chris Davis at the plate. He rapped a hard single to first base which Greg Bird easily handled, stepping on first ahead of Davis running down the line. Inning over, with the two-run lead intact.

Aroldis Chapman finished off the Orioles in the bottom of the ninth. Despite giving up a one-out single to pinch-hitter Jesus Sucre, he easily recorded the next two outs to gain his second save of the season even if his fastball couldn’t find triple digits.

The win went to Adam Ottavino (1-0) despite giving up the lead in the bottom of the seventh on runs charged to Jonathan Holder. Ha, they should have charged those runs to Aaron Boone!

And, oh, did I mention that Aaron Judge had two massive home runs earlier in the game. I knew it was time for a Judgian blast and had even commented on my post yesterday that it was a good day for an Aaron Judge home run. I was wrong, I should have said home runs. Judge’s first homer (and first of the season) came in the top of the first after Brett Gardner had struck out to lead off the game. The ball carried 412 feet over the center field wall. Trey Mancini had answered Judge’s solo homer with one of his own in the bottom of the first to tie the game. After Brett Gardner doubled with one out in the top of the third, Judge hit another ‘no doubt about it’ homer to center, giving him total yardage of 830 feet, with the two bombs. That was it for Judge in this game, he recorded outs in his next three at-bats which included two by strikeout. But the Yankees wouldn’t have been in position to win this game without Judge. Every day is a good day for Aaron Judge home runs.

Photo Credit: Gail Burton/AP

I know it’s too early to watch or care about the AL East Standings, but the Yankees (4-4) did move into a tie for second place with the Orioles. The Tampa Bay Rays lost 6-4 to the San Francisco Giants so the Yankees are 1 1/2 games back. The Boston Red Sox dropped another game, 5-4 to the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix, to fall to 2-8. I know it’s only a matter of time until the Red Sox find their groove, but it is fun to watch them in the AL East Cellar while it lasts. It couldn’t possibly happen to a better team than the Red Sux.

The Yankees can sweep the series at Camden Yards today before they hop on a plane bound for Houston, Texas. Domingo German (1-0, 0.00 ERA) faces David Hess (1-0, 0.00 ERA). In his last start against the Toronto Blue Jays, Hess no-hit the Blue Jays until he was lifted with one out in the seventh (the bullpen blew his no-no). German, on the same day, held the Detroit Tigers to only one hit and unearned run, in five innings. It would be great for the Yankees to sweep after losing their first two series of the season. And it would provide a joyful mood for the long flight down to South Texas.

I was a little surprised to see the call-up of Giovanny “Gio” Urshela before yesterday’s game. It was funny how it unfolded. Urshela posted an airplane pic on Social Media and clever fans deduced it was the same type of plane departing from Buffalo’s airport (where the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders are playing) and headed to Baltimore’s BWI Marshall Airport. While I enjoyed the brief one game call-up of Thairo Estrada who didn’t get to see any playing time, Urshela is in better position to help right now. No doubt Estrada will be the better utility player in the long run, but Urshela, who has a superior third base glove, provides better support for interim third baseman D.J. LeMahieu. Urshela doesn’t have much of a bat but that’s not why he is on the 25-man roster now even if he had a couple of strong offensive performances for the RailRiders to start the season. I can still easily remember some of the spectacular defensive plays Urshela made against the Yankees when he was playing for the Cleveland Indians. Not that LeMahieu needs any glove help but the occasional breather is welcomed. To make room for Urshela on the 40-man roster, the Yankees moved Didi Gregorius to the 60-day Injured List. Speaking of Sir Didi, damn, I miss those after-game emoji’s.

I know the season is early and stats, either good or bad, don’t really mean much given the small sample sizes. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge how good D.J. LeMahieu has been for the Yankees. Expected to be a “floating” starter with time at first, second and third, LeMahieu was forced into full-time duty at third base when Miguel Andujar, with a small labrum tear, was placed on the IL.  LeMahieu is 11-for-24, batting .458/.536/.542 with 1.077 OPS. His eighth inning single last night set the stage for Clint Frazier’s heroics but it almost provided a game-tying opportunity by getting Gleyber Torres to third. A ball got away from Orioles catcher Pedro Severino and Torres most likely could have scored if he had immediately broke for home but hesitation kept the budding superstar at third. LeMahieu is not a flashy player and is not known for dingers but he does the little things right. Living in Denver, I’d routinely hear Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon talk about how much LeMahieu meant to their team. It’s easy to see why they held such high praise. The guy can hit, field and win. I am glad he is a Yankee.

CC Sabathia makes a rehabilitation start for the High-A Tampa Tarpons today. The Tarpons are hosting the Lakeland Flying Tigers in Tampa. Hopefully all goes well for CC who should soon be back in Pinstripes for his final go-around. Hope everything goes well today, CC. We miss you and look forward to your return.

As always, Go Yankees!

Opening Day Success for Tanaka & Company…

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Yankees Roll behind Tanaka and Voit…

I know, I am late to the party with writing about Opening Day but it was a very exciting day. Great weather, the wonderful presence of unanimous Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera throwing out the first pitch (I loved watching #42 fire one from the Yankee Stadium pitching mound), solid pitching by Masahiro Tanaka despite not having his best stuff, a villainous bullpen and a couple of home runs from people not named Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton. It was an awesome day in the Bronx.

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg/The New York Post

The 7-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles felt like it could not have been better scripted. It was a great start to the highly anticipated 2019 season by the Yankees. There’s obviously a long ways to go, with 161 more games on the schedule, but it’s better to start with a win than not.

I was around some non-Yankee fans watching the game who took delight when Tanaka gave up a couple of hits in the first inning even if the second infield single hit the lead runner for the final out. They were predicting doom and gloom for Tanaka and the Pinstripers. I know the Yankees were playing MLB’s worst team but I knew Tanaka would persevere. Despite a lackluster Opening Day history, Tanaka seems locked in this year. I certainly wasn’t going to give up hope after a couple of meaningless hits. Tanaka shook off the first inning and never looked back. I think this will be a big season for him.

The Yankees didn’t have to wait long for their first home run of the season. The easy picks would have been Judge or Stanton, but it was Luke Voit who kicked off the 2019 chase to beat the Yankees’ 2018 record of 267 home runs. Granted, the Yankees would end the day six home runs behind the Los Angeles Dodgers but there’s no doubt many balls are going to leave Yankee Stadium this year for the home team. When Luke hit that ball in the bottom of the first inning with Judge and Stanton on base, I wasn’t sure if it was hit hard enough to go out but with his classic hop at the plate, I felt a sense of assurance it did have the necessary distance. Thankfully it easily carried over the center field wall into Monument Park for a 3-0 lead. Miguel Andujar almost made it a four-run game when his fly ball took left fielder Dwight Smith, Jr to the wall but it fell short of clearing the fence.  As many said, that ball would have easily carried out in the heat of August. In cool, crisp March, the ball decided to find Smith’s glove instead.

Aaron Judge may not have hit the first Yankee home run of the season but he did score the first run thanks to Voit’s homer. It was a great game for Judge, who went 2-for-3 with a couple of walks and three runs scored. He only struck out once, showing a very patient eye. Despite the presence of so many great offensive forces in the Yankees’ lineup, Judge is clearly the conductor and the heart and soul of the team’s engine.

Photo Credit: Chris Pedota/NorthJersey.com-USA TODAY Sports

Great game for Luke Voit who also picked up another RBI in the bottom of the fifth when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Voit finished with one official at-bat, the three-run homer, with the HBP and two walks. While I didn’t think last year was a fluke for Luke, he still has a long way to go to prove it was not but this was a very good way to start. I have no desire to underestimate the Yankees’ very talented baseball analytics team. The Chasen Shreve/Giovanny Gallegos trade for the former Cardinals minor leaguer, with minimal Big League opportunities, was/is a steal.

Photo Credit: Chris Pedota/NorthJersey.com-USA TODAY Sports

In a game Luis Severino had been slated to start until rotator cuff inflammation forced a change in plans, Tanaka pitched very well. He lasted until the sixth inning when a two-out run scoring double by Trey Mancini (one of the few recognizable names in Baltimore’s lineup) ended his day. 5 2/3 innings pitched, scattering six hits, yielding a couple of runs with only one earned and striking out five was a good day. From there, the Yankees used a bullpen formula we’ll see frequently this year. Adam Ottavino, who ended the sixth inning threat with a seven-pitch strikeout, to Zack Britton to Aroldis Chapman. I know there was concern with Chapman’s velocity (he was off his usual velocity by 3 to 5 mph) but it’s early. Not time to sound the alarms yet. I’ll go with those who attribute the reduced velocity to the cooler weather and Chapman’s age-induced work to transition from a hard thrower to more of a pitcher. I remain convinced we’ll see triple digits when the warmer weather returns.

Credit to Greg Bird for answering Voit’s home run with a solo dinger in the eighth after three strikeouts.  Bird got the start at first base over Voit, forcing the latter to DH. I really like Voit as the team’s first baseman but I am certainly not going to complain if Bird finally has the year we’ve long waited for. I love Bird’s swing when his bat is happy and healthy.

Although I would have really enjoyed to see David Robertson return to the Yankees for this season, I’ve been excited about the addition of Adam Ottavino since the day he was signed. He had a great Yankees debut with 1 1/3 innings pitched and three strikeouts.  His pitches are wicked. When he’s on, the batters have no chance. If D-Rob has re-signed, the Yankees most likely would not have signed AO. So I am pleased the way things turned out despite how much I liked Robertson.

I think my only disappointment with Opening Day was D.J. LeMahieu sitting on the bench through game’s end. It’s tough being a starter without a position. He is capable of so much more. Hopefully Aaron Boone figures out a good way to keep LeMahieu on the field, with his incredible glove, this season and his productive bat  in the order to help keep runners moving around the bases. LeMahieu is potentially a huge answer to the team’s RISP problem from last season.

Opening Day was a great success particularly considering every AL East team, except for the Yankees, lost. Chris Sale and the Boston Red Sox were bludgeoned in Seattle, although they did claw back and win last night’s game after trailing Seattle by two runs in the ninth inning, thanks to a three-run homer by Mitch Moreland off the M’s new closer, Hunter Strickland. Bummer that the Mariners traded their great young closer, Edwin Diaz, to the New York Mets in the off-season. If Diaz had been pitching, the Red Sox most likely would have lost their second consecutive game.

It stunk there was no Bronx baseball yesterday but the Yankees and O’s resume their series today. Woohoo! James Paxton will take the ball for his Yankees debut wearing the Pinstripes in Yankee Stadium for the first time. He’ll be opposed by Baltimore’s Nate Karns, the one-time Tampa Bay Ray. I am looking forward to watching Paxton on our side. Hopefully this will be a much better outing than his last Yankee stadium appearance. Last season, on June 21st, he surrendered two first-inning home runs to Aaron Judge and Miguel Andujar and lost a 4-3 decision to Luis Severino and the Yankees. On the bright side, the Big Maple won’t have to pitch to Judge and Andujar today since those guys will be playing behind him.

Poor Chasen Shreve. After being designated for assignment by the St Louis Cardinals, he cleared waivers and was sent outright to Memphis. Shreve may get another chance with the Cardinals if the injury bug hits their bullpen (very possible with the presence of injury-beleaguered Andrew Miller) but I am sure this is not how Shreve had planned for this season to play out. I was a little surprised that no team took a chance on Shreve but his stock has certainly fallen. He’s a good guy so I am hopeful he gets another chance but the game is clearly evolving away from lefty specialists. So if he can’t prove he is capable of more, his future is not bright.

Ronald Torreyes also failed to make the cut with the Twins. With an option left, Toe was assigned to Minnesota’s Triple A team in Rochester. The few times I saw him in Spring Training, I thought he looked good and had a chance to make the MLB roster. Hopefully he’ll get his chance to call Target Field home at some point this season. Former Yankees Tyler Austin, Jake Cave and Michael Pineda were all part of Minnesota’s Opening Day roster. Austin’s spot seems to be the most tenuous as he’ll be the odd man out when Miguel Sano is activated off the Injured List. With no options left, Austin’s future looks murky. The Twins have C.J. Cron at first and Nelson Cruz at DH. Both spots can be backed by Marwin Gonzalez so Austin represents a luxury with no real spot once Sano is back at third. These things have a way of working themselves out so hopefully Austin carves out a significant role with the Twins. If not, he’ll be packing his bags and moving on to the next city.

Bryan Mitchell was another ex-Yank to get the guillotine. Sent to the San Diego Padres in the salary-dump trade involving Chase Headley, Mitchell had been expected to be part of San Diego’s starting rotation this year. He was designated for assignment a couple of days ago and now awaits his fate. Ex-Yank Jose Pirela, a part of the Padres’ MLB roster the last few years, was optioned to El Paso. Nobody ever watches Padres games so I’m not sure anybody will notice. Hopefully Mitchell gets an opportunity with another organization to fulfill the promise he once held as a Yankees prospect. If not, he’ll be catching up with Pirela in West Texas for some Margaritas.

Keeping on track with the ex-Yankees theme, I was glad to see Melky Cabrera get another chance. In camp as a non-roster invitee with the Pirates, he was added to Pittsburgh’s Opening Day roster when outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall was placed on the injured list. I can still remember those great victory celebrations when Melky was a Yankee but Cabrera has traveled through many cities since that time. Hopefully he’ll get to spend some meaningful time in the Steel City. Former Yankees seem to do well in Pittsburgh.

One-time Yankees’ top prospect Mason Williams also gets another chance. After playing with the Cincinnati Reds organization the last couple of seasons, he was signed by the Baltimore Orioles yesterday after being cut by the Reds a couple of weeks ago. He’ll report to Baltimore’s top farm team in Norfolk, VA. It doesn’t seem like that long ago we were hoping for great things in Pinstripes for Williams. I guess if you want an opportunity to play, signing with a talent-devoid organization is the way to go. No doubt he’ll find his way to Camden Yards at some point this year if he proves himself in Triple A.

I continue to be amazed no team has signed either Craig Kimbrel or Dallas Keuchel. I really thought they’d be signed before the start of the season. I had fully expected the Milwaukee Brewers to grab Kimbrel after it was announced closer Corey Knebel would need Tommy John surgery but I guess the presence of premier bullpen shutdown artist Josh Hader lessens the need.  Keuchel can help almost any team win more games. I kept expecting him to be a late training camp sign by his former team, the Houston Astros, but it never happened. The Astros still seem like his best option but for now, he has to throw every five days on his own dime. If I was the GM of the Atlanta Braves, I’d be all over Keuchel to help with the highly competitive NL East. Maybe the baseball analytics are right about the regression of Keuchel, but I have to believe he can still help somebody.

I am very glad the baseball season is back. It’s been a long off-season. Spring training is nice but it gets old after awhile. It’s awesome to see games that count once again. I am hopeful these games lead to an AL East championship and a highly successful October for the Yankees. We’ve waited a very long time for this year. As they say, time will tell but I like our chances.

As always, Go Yankees!

Baseball Writer Nick Cafardo Passes Away…

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One of America’s Best MLB Writers Gone Too Soon…

I know this is a Yankees blog but we have to give a hat tip to the late Nick Cafardo, a baseball columnist for The Boston Globe. Cafardo died yesterday of an embolism at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Florida while covering Red Sox Spring Training. He was not scheduled to work yet there he was covering the game he loved.

Although I did not know Cafardo personally, I am very heartbroken over his passing. Every weekend, I made time in my day to read his Sunday Baseball Notes. For me, it was required reading. Cafardo may have been a lifelong Red Sox fan but I always felt that he never sugarcoated the Red Sox and he never unfairly discredited the Yankees. If the term ‘Yankees Suck’ was part of his vocabulary, it never appeared in any written form that I saw. I didn’t read the Sunday Baseball Notes column because I wanted insight on the Yankees’ primary rival — I read it because I wanted insight on Major League Baseball through the passionate eyes of a true baseball fan who understood the game better than most. I can count on one hand the number of professional MLB writers I hold in very high regard but Cafardo was one. Through so many of his colleagues, a common theme of Cafardo’s superior professionalism and high value of his friendship resonates. I know Boston is hurting over his loss, but his impact reached a Nation (United States, not just the RSN) and perhaps beyond.

2013 World Series Media Day
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Nick Carfardo, 62, began his employment with the Globe in 1989. Prior to joining the Globe, he worked for The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, MA. He covered the Red Sox until 2001 when he switched to the NFL’s New England Patriots. It coincided with the first Super Bowl Championship for Head Coach Bill Belichick and QB Tom Brady. Cafardo has been back on the baseball beat for the last 15 years. I am not sure when I first started reading Cafardo’s work, or how I even became aware of him, but he’s been a staple for me for many years. I appreciated and valued his insight as told through an objective and impartial lens.

The Red Sox released the following statement:

We are saddened by the sudden loss of long-time baseball reporter, Nick Cafardo. For over three decades, Nick was a fixture at Fenway Park and throughout ballparks across the country. His coverage was as consistent as the game itself. His opinions on the Red Sox and the most pressing issues facing Major League Baseball were a constant, particularly through the prominent Sunday baseball notes column in the Boston Globe. 

The Cafardo family will always be a part of the Boston baseball family, and the Red Sox will honor Nicks’ legacy at the appropriate time.

Boston mayor Marty Walsh probably said it best, “Nick Cafardo was a man who talent, enthusiasm, and contribution to Boston’s sports coverage was incomparable and something that I always enjoyed reading”. Me too, Marty. Even though I didn’t know him outside of his words, there’s a huge void in my life today. I am sure many feel the same way.

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Cafardo is survived by his wife, Leeanne, and two children, Emilee and Ben. Ben is a communications director for ESPN.

He will be missed.

As for the Yankees, the first Spring Game is nearly here. The Yankees travel to Fort Myers to play the Red Sox tomorrow. Nestor Cortes, a non-roster invitee, gets the opening nod to start the game. Cortes, attending his first Yankees MLB Camp, was wearing a Baltimore Orioles spring jersey this time last year as a Rule 5 Draft selection. I remember a few of his starts last March for Baltimore and I am excited that he’ll be doing it for the Yankees this Spring. I know he’s not a top prospect but I’ve always liked the lefty. I doubt he ever gets an opportunity in the Bronx unless injuries force the Yankees’ hand. Most likely, he’ll need to go to another team to get his shot. Hopefully with his performance tomorrow and over the next few weeks, he can open some eyes even if they don’t belong to Yankee scouts.

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Brendan Kuty of NJ Advance Media for NJ.com reported that Miguel Andujar, Greg Bird, Aaron Hicks, and Gleyber Torres will be making the trip to JetBlue Park. It’s also been reported that Clint Frazier, Kyle Higashioka and Estevan Florial will be there. Otherwise, I expect to see the lower end of the 40-man roster and the non-roster invitees on the field in the first meeting of the two AL East Superpowers. Go Trey Amburgey, Phillip Diehl and Billy Burns! Despite who may or may not be on the field for the Yankees, I know I’ll be watching and look forward to the first organized, albeit unofficial, game of the year for America’s best team (the visitors, not the home team). The soon-to-be dethroned World Champions play their first game today against Northeastern University.

I know it’s way too early to get excited but I loved seeing that Adam Ottavino struck out the four batters he faced yesterday, including Tyler Wade twice. Afterwards, Wade said, “Think about how nasty he is in highlights. Then times that by a lot.” I had wanted the Yankees to re-sign David Robertson but I’ve never once been disappointed that they signed Otto (and re-signed Zack Britton) instead of bringing back D-Rob. I think Otto is going to be one of my favorite relievers this year.  I am glad he’s a Yankee.

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Photo Credit: Lynne Sladky-The Associated Press

Randy Miller of NJ Advance Media for NJ.com had a nice column today about Miguel Andujar. In it, he quotes Willie Randolph saying, “I think he (Andujar) can be above average at third base.” Randolph added, “Listen, if you give me average defense, I’ll take that because the way he can hit. I think he’s going to be a batting champion one day.” Nice job by Randy and good read for Andujar naysayers. I know that I am hopeful we’ll be seeing Andujar dancing at third base this year.

As always, Go Yankees!