Tagged: AL East

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!

Better Pitching Equals Better Results…

Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer, AP

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

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

Photo Credit: AP

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Staton Rabin, AP

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Mike Stobe, Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer, AP

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Rich Gagnon, AP

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

As always, Go Yankees!

The 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 Baseball Season Did Not End July 31st…

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac, Getty Images

Destination: World Series Championship is alive and well…

Admittedly, I was very disappointed with the trading deadline. I felt it was a missed opportunity to provide enhancements for the team. The Houston Astros are a very good team from top to bottom, and they are led by a very smart manager. I know I will not underestimate them nor will I compare them to a rotation-strong Tiger team that couldn’t win when it mattered. Nevertheless, Houston did not secure a guarantee of October success with their moves.

I do wish I had better confidence with the return the injured Yankee players. It’s being reported that Luis Severino will finally return to the mound next Friday as he begins his rehab back to the Major Leagues for possibly September. Honestly, he is a setback away from not pitching for the club at all this year. I am trying to keep my expectations low, but at best, he appears to be help for the bullpen barring no further setbacks. There does not appear to be sufficient time to get him stretched out for a starting role, or if he comes back to start, he’ll be like one of the starting pitchers who miss Spring Training and then struggle mightily. Still, I’d rather have Sevy on the post-season roster than not.

Photo Credit: Severino40 on Instagram

Maybe Dellin Betances can come back and recapture his 2018 effectiveness. It does not exactly feel like a sure bet. I probably have more confidence in Dellin at this point than Sevy but we’ll see. The Yankees really need both if they are to win the 2019 World Series. It’s not impossible but it would clearly help.

I am not even sure what to think about Giancarlo Stanton. If he hasn’t even begun baseball activities, I don’t see his return anytime soon. And when he does come back, there is the inevitable struggle to recapture his timing. In other words, we’re looking at some painful at-bats until he becomes the Giancarlo we all know and love.

It’s not great news the Yankees could be without Luke Voit for up to six weeks, a certainty if he does have surgery for his sports hernia. But at least the Yankees have Edwin Encarnacion and DJ LeMahieu to cover first base, and Mike Ford waiting in the wings at Scranton for support. When I saw the San Francisco Giants had designated Tyler Austin for assignment yesterday, my immediate thought was potential help for the Yankees. But I think that was just a sentimental feeling. While I think some team with a higher priority claim will take a shot at the former Yank, I don’t care for Austin’s splits and although he has some power, I think the Yankees have better options in-house. I really thought a trade for Justin Smoak at the trading deadline made sense, but if you truly believe the injured guys will be back, there’s not necessarily any long term room on the roster.

Oh well, the Yankees didn’t get the needed help for the rotation. It sucks but it is what it is. Time for the starters we do have to step it up. Domingo German has certainly earned his standing among the top five. After allowing the first-inning  two-run homer to JD Martinez last night, James Paxton pitched like we know he can in holding the Red Sox to two hits and those two runs over six innings. This is the Pax we need down the stretch. If only he can overcome those first inning jitters. First innings with Paxton are becoming very painful to watch. I still have hope that Paxton can come up big in October. Despite his struggles, I do not believe this to be a ‘Sonny Gray-like’ situation. I think Pax will have his huge moments in Pinstripes. The talent and the desire are there. Pax just needs to find the answer within himself and I am confident he will.

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

J.A. Happ continues to concern me. I think it was his spot in the rotation that I wanted to see upgraded. His three-year contract is starting to worry me a bit. Technically, it is a two-year deal with an option, but the third year vests with 165 innings pitched or 27 games started in 2020, which, if he stays in the rotation, should be easily achievable. Frankly, I hope the Yankees can find a way to move Happ in the off-season and find a better option, but they’ll have to send a few Benjamin Franklins with him to find a taker.  But for now, Happ needs to find what he had last year at this time. Currently out on paternity leave, hopefully the newly born Happ will help J.A.’s rebirth as an effective Yankees starter.

With CC Sabathia on the Injured List for his knee, a deadline starter would have been ideal but I guess we’ll have to continue with Chad Green, Opener. Green and Nestor Cortes Jr have proven to be a reliable tandem so it’s not the end of the World they have to provide the necessary support. When CC returns, I am not going to go against him. He is a crafty veteran and the final starts of his career will have a very strong impact on him in terms of the desire to go out on his own terms. I am confident he’ll have his magical moment before this is said and done.

It hasn’t been the best of seasons for Masahiro Tanaka, but like the great Andy Pettitte, Masa has a way of raising the bar in October. I have no doubt he’ll be very effective when it matters, even if he continues to give up those annoying obligatory dingers.

For those who think Deivi Garcia is the next Great Savior, my take is not this year. While it has been said he’d be in the bullpen if he does get the call up in September, I doubt he makes a significant difference until 2020 at the earliest. I am not resting any hopes on him. The kid is only 20 and he’s struggled with the promotion to Triple A. I don’t blame him for those struggles. They were inevitable. Rare is the player who can immediately master every level of the minor leagues from the start. I think he’ll be a very good pitcher one day, just not this year. At least not at the big league level. I have no doubt he’ll be frustrating International League hitters by season’s end.

I’ve always liked Aroldis Chapman, but if he opts out of his contract in the off-season, let him go. I am not interested in a renegotiation of his contract. I know Yankee fans either love or hate Zach Britton, but he’d be my choice to take over the closing duties. Not sure if the Yankees will re-sign Dellin Betances, but he’s better suited for setup. He’d be the only other name I’d consider for closer even though I’ve never been a fan of using him in that role despite his limited success. I also think Adam Ottavino and Tommy Kahnle are better in their current roles. The Colorado Rockies tried Otto as closer a couple of years ago without success, but I realize that was before Otto rediscovered himself in his makeshift NYC pitching studio. Still, Otto’s propensity for walks when he doesn’t have his control does not play well in the ninth inning.

I keep reading there’s no way the Yankees sign Gerrit Cole in the off-season and perhaps that’s true. There will be teams like the Los Angeles Angels that will be desperate for starting pitching, particularly for someone with Cole’s resume. I think any chance Houston would re-sign Cole was eliminated when they acquired Zach Greinke and his contract. So, if anything, it gives me some hope the Yankees will be contenders for Cole’s services. We’ll see. Hopefully he doesn’t end the Yankees’ season before we get there.

I was very appreciative of the first inning grand slam by Gleyber Torres last night to answer the home run by JD Martinez and fortunately it held up to give the Yankees a 4-2 win over the Boston Red Sox. Last year at this time, the Yankees started a four-game series in Boston on the exact same date (August 2nd, the anniversary of the death of Yankee great Thurman Munson). The Yankees entered the series in much better position than the Red Sox are in now, trailing the then-AL East leaders by only 5 1/2 games. Boston swept the four-game series which effectively ended the Yankees’ hopes of winning the division. I am really hoping the Yankees can do the same to the Red Sox this year. I remember the defeated feeling I had last year after that series. It’s a feeling the Boston fans should experience this year, in my opinion. I am not really expecting a sweep but taking 3 of 4, especially after last weekend’s disaster in Boston, would be huge. It would also leave the Red Sox severely wounded with their playoff aspirations and three good teams ahead of them in the AL Wild Card hunt.

Since the Tampa Bay Rays had the night off, the Yankees were able to increase their AL East lead to 7 1/2 games. The Red Sox are back to 11 1/2 games behind our favorite team. Too bad, so sad. I’d really enjoy it if the Red Sox players have to make non-baseball plans for October. Time to go for the jugular and race to the AL East title crown. If it happens, I will be so glad the Yankees do not have to play a one-game ‘do or die’ playoff this year. But no Boston baseball in October would almost be as exciting.

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

The Yankees play two today. The afternoon game will pit Domingo German, searching for his 14th win, against Chris Sale. It’s been a very disappointing year for Boston’s ace so hopefully the disappointment continues today. In the night cap, Chad Green-Opener will face lefty Brian Johnson. Johnson was activated off the Injured List earlier today. He has been out since June 27th with an intestinal issue. A sweep by the Yankees would obviously leave the entire Red Sox team with intestinal issues.

Before I go and despite the disappointment experienced a few days ago, I am glad the Trading Deadline has come and gone. I was tired of the endless speculation and the ridiculous trade proposals in the minds of many Yankee fans. Next year, I’ll be in favor of moving the trade deadline to August 15th to help teams better decide if they are buyers or sellers. However, on August 3, 2019, this is our team and this is THE team that can take us to the promised land. To hell with the Astros and anybody else, the Yankees have the players capable of delivering champagne in the final MLB game of the year. Let’s do this.

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!

Grabbing the “W” for 2nd Half Opener…

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

Always love hearing, The Yankees Win

The Yankees won the first half but now the real Show begins. Forget the AL East standings, there’s going to be a dogfight to the end of September. Sure, I’d rather be up 6 1/2 games up on the second place team like the Yankees are but no one should count the Boston Red Sox out of this despite their current view, 9 games behind the AL East Leaders. A slump by the Yankees, a red hot streak by the Beantowners and a large lead could evaporate quickly. Bottom line, take nothing for granted and never, ever let up on the gas pedal.

Last night’s game between the Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays was a terrific way to open the second half of the long season. A great pitching performance by Domingo German, solid bullpen work by Tommy Kahnle and Chad Green, and the bat of Edwin Encarnacion who almost walked the Parrot with his bases loaded (and clearing) double in the bottom of the fifth inning were key to the Yankees’ 4-0 victory. Credit also to Brett Gardner, who I continually write off and who keeps proving me wrong, for putting himself in position to score the game’s first run when he tripled to lead off the fifth. The Machine, aka DJ LeMahieu, brought Gardy home with a ground out before the Yanks filled the bases for EE.

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

With the news about Giancarlo Stanton continuing to be negative (still rehabbing and has not yet begun baseball activities), Gardner simply continues to play at a level where the Yankees have not missed the thunderous bat of Stanton. As many have said, Gardy has played himself into consideration for another one-year deal in the off-season. I still think he should be the fourth outfielder heading into next season but conversely I am certainly fine with his desire to continually prove me wrong. We know we won’t see Stanton in July but I am starting to wonder if August is out too. If he does not return prior to September, I can’t really see him being much of a factor as he’ll need to regain his timing and the playoffs, should the Yankees get there, are not a time for patience. I hope that it plays out so that Stanton is primed and ready for October but I guess we’ll see…eventually.

Starting pitching remains the Yankees’ primary concern. I continue to read those who say the Yankees will get a huge boost when Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery return. At this point, I think it is best to assume they will not so that anything we can get from them is icing on the cake. I am most concerned about Sevy. Obviously as the team’s ace, he means so much to the starting rotation if healthy but like Stanton, if he doesn’t return until late August or September, how much of a factor will he be? Returning from last year’s Tommy John surgery, I am not expecting anything much at all from Montgomery. I think he’ll be stronger next year but even so, he is not a front-of-the-rotation starter. I certainly wouldn’t let Monty keep me from trying to upgrade the rotation. Every one is getting excited about pitching prospect Deivi Garcia, 20, who was just promoted to Triple A. I think he’ll get a September call up perhaps (he has to be placed on the 40-man roster before this Fall’s Rule 5 Draft anyway) but it’s too soon to consider him a savior.

The pitching trade rumors, lately, seem to be focusing on Arizona’s Robbie Ray.  He’s not an elite starter but he’s a good pitcher. He was masterful last night in beating the St Louis Cardinals, pitching 6 1/3 innings of two-hit, one-run ball. He struck out 8 Cardinals while issuing two free passes. He could help the Yankees but I think they need more. Ray, a lefty, is under team control for one more year. The 6’2” pitcher, 27, was originally a 12th round selection in the 2010 MLB Draft by the Washington Nationals. In December 2013, he was sent to the Detroit Tigers in a deal for former Major Leaguer Doug Fister. Two years later, the Tigers sent him to Arizona in the deal that brought shortstop Didi Gregorius to New York and sent former Yankees pitcher Shane Greene to Detroit. It’s kind of funny that now both Ray and Greene could be arms of interest for the Yankees this month. I think Ray’s walk rate (4.54 BB/9, 56 walks in 111 innings) concerns me the most but if the Yankees’ analytics team sees something in him that they can correct, I’d be supportive of his acquisition.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Stewart, USA TODAY Sports

Of all the other names out there, Trevor Bauer is probably the most appealing to me but the Cleveland Indians currently hold the second Wild Card slot so it’s doubtful the Indians deal away one of their best starters unless they go into a massive tailspin between now and the end of the month. I like Marcus Stroman but the health concerns and the inconsistency of past years are red flags for me. I think the New Yorker would thrive on the Main Stage but I’d describe my interest in him as cautious at best. I also do not want to see more good prospects go to Toronto. I guess the Blue Jays will get good prospects from someone for Stroman but I’d hate to see former Yankee prospects thrive in the AL East against the Yankees.

Nevertheless, despite all the names that have been mentioned, GM Brian Cashman is notorious for operating in stealth mode and he’ll most likely surprise us all with his deadline acquisition(s) this month. As they say, In Cashman We Trust.

A moment to pay tribute to late Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim starting pitcher Tyler Skaggs who died unexpectedly in Texas earlier this month. The Angels played their first home game in Anaheim, CA last night since Skaggs died. There was a makeshift memorial for the fans as they entered Angel Stadium and the presence of Skaggs was felt everywhere through images and the players’ decision for everyone to wear #45 in honor of their fallen teammate.

Photo Credit: Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG

Mike Trout had a first-pitch two run homer in the bottom of the first inning, and went 3-for-4 in the game with 6 RBIs. Two Angels pitchers, meanwhile, combined on a no-hitter as the Angels defeated the Seattle Mariners, 13-0. The 13 runs (and 13 hits) were significant as today, July 13th, would have been Tyler’s 28th birthday. Per Angels Manager Brad Ausmus, “That was partly Skaggsy’s no-hitter”.

Hollywood could not have scripted this any better. For me, it brought back memories of August 6, 1979 when Bobby Murcer drove in 5 late runs with a three-run homer in the seventh inning and a dramatic walk-off two-run single in the bottom of the 9th as the Yankees overcome a four-run deficit to beat the Baltimore Orioles, 5-4. The Yankees had attended the funeral of legendary catcher Thurman Munson in Canton, Ohio earlier in the day before returning to the Bronx for the game with eyes still swollen from the tears. Murcer, one of Thurman’s best friends, gave a performance that I’ll never forget in this lifetime. I am doubtful I’ll forget the play of Mike Trout and his teammates anytime soon.

Welcome back, Luke Voit! The Yankees are activating the Yankees first baseman today from the Injured List. I am glad to get him back and hopefully he can recapture his play from earlier this season. Like Aaron Judge, I appreciate the intangibles that Voit brings to this team through his personality and infectious energy and positivity. The homers, complete with the home plate hop, are a nice bonus. Breyvic Valera (We hardly knew ye!) was optioned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to make room for the Yankees’ #45.

Happy 31st Birthday to The Machine! Like Tyler Skaggs, today is DJ LeMahieu’s birthday. Hopefully this is the first of many birthday celebrations for DJ in the Bronx.

Lastly, welcome back to the emoji tweets from Sir Didi Gregorius! When Didi returned from the Injured List, he didn’t bring the after-game tweets with him and no explanation was given. Yet, last night, the below tweet appeared and I couldn’t have been happier.

As always, Go Yankees!